Assaults on environment and nature

ISTANBUL – 17.07.2014 11:52:19

Economic growth will eventually challenge human development and harm nature. The economic growth rate for 2013 shows a 4 percent increase. When examined closely, the expansion was almost solely due to domestic consumption and government spending; in other words, it was hormone-driven growth. Two weeks ago we got some perspective on the state of Turkish agriculture and found it to be the main victim of this visionless growth.

Today let’s have a look at the environment which, as these four examples will illustrate, is the other loser in Turkey’s economic boom.

Gallipoli National Park status cancellation

In June a parliamentary commission began debating some of the more fundamental changes to the Gallipoli (Gelibolu) National Park law. Turkey will probably bid farewell to one more special area which is the world’s heritage and has been under protection for a century because of changes foreseen in the new law on the “Çanakkale Wars and Gallipoli Historic Area.”

Conquering Fatih’s (conqueror) Forest

At the end of June there was a protest against yet another “destruction” project which seeks to construct villas and bungalows in the last forest of Istanbul. The protest, called the “Defense of the Northern Forests” [Kuzey Ormanları Savunması], declares on its website that the real estate development project named “Nature Park” aims to take both the Fatih Orman and Park Orman into its fold. The call to protest said, “The Fatih Forest project on which Ağaoğlu (a real estate developer) has set his sights now includes new looting projects in which business figures Serdar Bilgili and Ferit Şahenk are also involved.”

The AKP’s forest fairy tale

From the forestry faculty at Bartın University, Professors Erdoğan Atmış and Batuhan Günşen offer up a valuable analysis titled “A critical analysis examining the AKP in light of the forestry policies and practices of Turkish governments.” In this work the AKP’s particular sort of green “fairy tales” are revealed. These two academics explain, quite succinctly, how the AKP’s general stance on forests is not a question of “how to attain maximum benefit from resources in general, but rather how to profit from resources.” In other words, the AKP does not try to maximize forestlands, but rather, sells them. And in selling them, it creates a number of different stories and reasons to justify it.

Here is one telling example of the forestry fairy tales that have emerged in recent years: “Despite the fact that the tree-planting which took place in 2007 covered 31,500 hectares, it was disclosed by officials as having been 450,000 hectares. And while it was announced that as a part of a five year program, 2.3 million hectares of land would have trees planted on it, the real truth of the matter is that 73 percent of this rehabilitation program and used techniques that did not follow modern forestry science.”

This academic study also takes a close and careful look at the “2B Law” that makes it easier to see the sales of wrongfully occupied forestlands. To read the study in full:ılığı%20Erdoğan%20Atmış-Batuhan%20Günşen.pdf

Coal versus olive

An SOS from Ayvalık, Turkey’s olive oil powerhouse. Apparently Turkey’s coal mines in Muğla province’s Yatağan district have reached the point of depletion. While experts in Yatağan are still asserting that there is plenty of coal left in the area, the government has apparently set its sights on the coal that lies under the olive groves of Ayvalık to feed the thermoelectric power plant in Yatağan. As we all know, accessing underground minerals takes precedence over everything in this country! In short, there is apparently nothing this government won’t do when it comes to retrieving coal from the ground, despite the fact that not only is this particular Turkish lignite coal one of the least productive of all, it is also the main cause of global warming.

CENGİZ AKTAR (Cihan/Today’s Zaman)


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1992-Thu Jul 17 15:01:15 EEST 2014

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Dusty environment increases risk of TB

Health News of Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Source: GNA

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MR Ebenezer Tetteh, Municipal Disease Control Officer of the Tarkwa Municipality in the Western Region, says the increase in Tuberculosis (TB) cases within the area could largely be attributed to the dusty nature of the environment due to illegal mining.

He also mentioned poor housing and negative lifestyle of the people as another means through which Tuberculosis was gaining roots in the area.

This year alone, the municipality had recorded 50 new cases, with 20 of them being positive.

Mr Tetteh told the Ghana News Agency during an educational programme on Tuberculosis by KICK TB Ghana, to educate school children in the area to serve as ambassadors to the community.

He said the municipality had exceeded the national target of 86 cases per 100,000 population.

Mr George Kluborto, former Metropolitan SHEP Co-ordinator and a Team Member of KICK TB Ghana, said the disease continues to be life threatening, which needed urgent commitment from all and sundry to control it.

He said school children were being introduced to a new method of prevention, which is the use of the arm, instead of the palm, to cover mouths when coughing or sneezing.

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Custodians of nature

What do you do when you have a piece of coastal land that draws nesting turtles? You could build a sprawling resort and make a lot of money. Or you could start a project to protect the turtles. Meet three people who opted for the latter.

Years ago, turtles nested all along the coast of Pulau Lang Tengah, an isle off Terengganu. But tourism development changed all that, as resorts came up on almost all the beaches. With the noisy crowds and bright lights, most of the sandy beaches no longer lure turtles ashore to lay their eggs, save for two spots: one beach that remains undeveloped and another that has a small-scale resort with low occupancy and is quiet with no bright lights.

The undeveloped beach fronts land owned by Hayati Mokhtar. Three years ago, she was given the 0.2ha piece of land that her father had bought some 30 years earlier. When she discovered that turtles nest on the beach there, it took little deliberation on her part to keep the site for a turtle conservation project. Volunteers do nightly patrols to safeguard the turtle nests.

It’s been one and a half years since the Lang Tengah Turtle Watch took off, and Hayati happily notes that the scheme has saved thousands of eggs from poachers, and released over 2,700 green and hawksbill hatchlings into the sea.

Protecting turtles was not the first thing on her mind when she inherited the property. Unsure of what she could do with the land, she had headed to the island in 2012 to check it out. What she saw was in sharp contrast to her childhood memories of the place.

“There was a lot more rubbish on the beach, there was a general degradation of the corals. And each beach on the island had a resort … not a light, wooden structure but concrete, multi-storey structures. There were just a few shacks when I last visited the island. It dawned on me that what I thought was a pristine, unspoilt piece of the island was not there any more.”

That trip triggered a decision: she would preserve whatever she could of the island, beginning with the sliver of land that is hers.

“I’m now custodian of this land. I feel a sense of responsibility. A lot of us feel powerless when faced with all these environmental issues. We feel caught up in something over which we have little influence and power. It can be debilitating.

“But I decided that there’s something I can do, in my own way, on my land. Instead of just lamenting the loss of a species and throwing my arms up in the air, I decided, ‘I’m going to take responsibility over what I’ve been given’. I have some control and can stipulate what happens here.”

Saving turtles is a far cry from what Hayati does for a living. She is a visual artist who had studied fine art in London. She uses moving images – often displayed as installations set across multiple screens – to examine landscapes, buildings and semi-abandoned towns. Her video installations have been shown locally and in Australia, Canada, Singapore, and Sweden.

Hayati, 44, initially had no idea that turtles nested on her beach but workers at resorts on the island confirmed it, and the name given to the area, Turtle Bay, was a clue, too. So, last year, she invited the Fisheries Department and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to assess the viability of the beach on her land for turtle conservation activities.

The Fisheries officers found five turtle tracks and were not optimistic about a project there. However, Rahayu Zulkifli, who was heading the WWF turtle conservation project in Terengganu then (she has since left the organisation) advised Hayati to do a project even if only for a year, as there was no information on turtle nestings at Lang Tengah.

“We don’t know what turtle species come up. Rahayu said it might be worthwhile doing the project just to get the data. So I decided to go ahead and take it one step at a time.”

She applied to the state government for turtle collection rights, and was successful. Fortunately for her, the tender covers the whole island and not specific beaches, like elsewhere. So she has rights to not only the eggs laid on the beach fronting her property, but for the other beaches as well.

“Turtle populations in Terengganu have plummeted. Entanglement in fishing gear and loss of feeding grounds due to marine pollution have contributed greatly towards this decline, while hotel development has limited the availability of nesting beaches. But it is the practice of egg collection that has almost wiped out populations in Terengganu. So, one of our primary tasks is guarding the turtle eggs,” she says.

Starting from scratch

To be sure that they did things right, Hayati and her staff underwent training done by WWF. They learnt things like how and when it is best to move the eggs, and to build nests with the right depths and widths for re-burying of eggs. Last April, the Lang Tengah Turtle Watch kicked off with local volunteers and students from the universities of Cambridge, Birmingham and University College London.

They soon discovered that turtles nest only on two beaches: Turtle Bay and Lang Sari, which has a small resort. However, the eggs were being poached by resort workers. Some were sold and some were incubated to obtain baby turtles that could be shown off to tourists. However, the hatchlings were kept in small containers and fed with bread. “People don’t understand that bread is not part of a turtle’s diet. There are no loaves of bread in the ocean, and commercially made bread is full of additives,” says Hayati.

At least eight volunteers are needed each day to safeguard the nesting turtles; they take turns to patrol both beaches for nests at nights. Their constant presence on the island is the main deterrent to egg poachers. The eggs laid at the 50m-long beach at Turtle Bay are left as is, while those on Lang Sari beach, where chances of poaching are higher, are relocated to Turtle Bay. The nesting season runs from March to October.

Assisting Hayati is Raphe van Zevenbergen, a volunteer from Britain who stayed on to manage the project. He had studied wildlife conservation and has participated in similar conservation projects in Madagascar and Costa Rica.

Last year, they rescued 28 nests on Lang Tengah. The hatchling success rate was 71% and all were green turtles.

“We saw 2,298 hatchlings successfully make it into the water, which is 2,298 that would have definitely never have made it had we not been here to help stop the poaching,” says van Zevenbergen, 23.

This year, there have been 11 nests; seven of green turtles and four of hawksbill. Post-hatch inspections of three green turtle nests showed 204 hatchlings from 233 eggs. In another three hawksbill nests, there were 285 hatchlings from 307 eggs. The discovery of nesting hawksbills is exciting, as the species no longer nests on the Terengganu mainland, and only in small numbers on Pulau Redang.

Powered by volunteers

The project relies on the support of volunteers, which numbered 24 last year. This year, it has had 35, with groups coming from the Malaysian Nature Society and Taylor’s University, as well as foreign students and travellers. The rates are RM560 a week for Malaysians and RM800 for foreigners.

Safeguarding the nests simply would not be possible without the volunteers, as there are people still eyeing the eggs.

“One man says that if we were not there he would take the eggs,” says van Zevenbergen. “That is why we must be ever-present on the beaches, otherwise all the nests on the island are doomed.”

Aside from the nightly patrols, the volunteers inspect the nests every three days once the eggs are 45 days old. This is to ascertain whether the nest has succumbed to rot from fungal infection. If so, the affected eggs are removed (to prevent contaminating the other eggs) and buried elsewhere as they do sometimes hatch. If the nest has been predated upon by ants or crabs, it is relocated.

The volunteers also help out around the camp with various chores, such as cooking, cleaning and firewood collection. But there is always free time to go jungle trekking and snorkelling. They also support other conservation efforts on the island, such as helping to monitor the reef and “plant” corals in a coral regeneration programme initiated by a dive centre on the island.

Hayati is still uncertain about the long-term viability of the project as the turtle landings are still random and lower than at other major nesting sites. One concern is: what happens if paying volunteers come but no turtles come ashore? It is the experience of helping with turtles that the volunteers are paying for, after all.

But she is not giving up as she sees a value in her endeavour.

“Though the focus is on turtle conservation, the stay will also acquaint city folk with nature. Even if the volunteers don’t see a turtle during their trip, they will see a star-strewn sky, something you don’t get in KL. They get to experience nature, they get to interact with nature.”

She plans to offer more activities for the volunteers. A visiting botanist from Hong Kong has alerted her to the presence of protected plant species on the island, including orchids and cycads. With more surveys, other interesting flora and fauna might show up. Hayati says these could be shown to the volunteers to broaden their knowledge and enrich their experience. So she is keen to work with researchers who want to study the wildlife of Lang Tengah.

“To ensure that our migratory population of turtles continue using the island as a nesting ground, we need guardians to stop the poaching activity. Our operation can only function if we have a dedicated team of individuals willing to take part in our conservation practices.”

Rather than feeling powerless in a world filled with environmental woes, this endeavour is what Hayati feels she can personally do, for an endangered species.

To learn more, go to

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DCNR Contests Aim to Foster Interest in Environment, Outdoor Activities

HARRISBURG, Pa., July 10, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Ellen Ferretti today announced two contests to foster the goals of Kids in Nature, a department-wide effort to introduce more families to outdoor adventures.

“As part of our Kids in Nature program, we will be offering contests designed to draw families to Pennsylvania’s state parks and state forestlands,” Ferretti said. “Running simultaneously over the next several months, the contests will encourage families to participate in hikes, environmental education programs and other activities. At the same time, we’ll be encouraging visits to state parks and forests.”

Unveiled in late April, the Kids in Nature program is committed to renewing family interest in the outdoors and combatting the public’s mounting disconnect from the natural resources around them.

Contest requirements, entry forms and other details can be found at the program website at Participants earn the chance to win prizes or Facebook notoriety in competitive events that include:

Kids in NatureContest, a traditional survey-completion contest that runs today through Dec. 31 and is open to families and individuals under the age of 21. Participants must enter by completing an online survey form and “earn” entry opportunities by visiting parks or forests and engaging in educational programs, hikes or other offered activities.

Prizes, to be determined in a January 2015 drawing, are:

Grand prize: a behind-the-scenes tour with Bureau of State Parks staff, and two nights of free camping at the winner’s chosen state park; second- to fourth-place prizes (three): two nights of free camping; and fifth- to eighth-place prizes (four): 2015 Pa. State Parks calendars.

Capture the Flag, a social media twist on the childhood game.  State parks will post a picture of a flag hidden within their park; provide a clue; and encourage participants to be the first to find it and post their family or child’s picture with the flag on Facebook. Open to families and participants under 21, the competition runs through Sept. 4.

Aside from weekly announcements of individual winners, successful Capture the Flag entrants will not receive official prizes, but online provisions will enable them to enter the larger Kids in Nature contest.

“These contests are an extension of what DCNR staff does every day – work tirelessly to connect people of all ages to nature through the public lands we manage and help support,” Ferretti said. “Kids in Nature will step up our efforts to raise the environmental awareness of children and their families, and, hopefully, get them actively involved in recreation, educational programs and environmental careers.”

The department’s recently launched website — – is a source of information for parents and teachers about where to go outside, and what to do when you get there.

Media contact: Terry Brady, 717-772-9101

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

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Exploiting nature ‘sin’ of our time – Pope



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Nature Over Nurture: Chimpanzees' Intelligence Comes from Genes not Upbringing

Chimpanzees’ intelligence is down to genes rather than upbringing, which suggests that nature rather than nurture governs smart behaviour in our closest living cousins.

Scientists have long pondered the basis of human intelligence, based on IQ tests and studies of identical twins brought up apart, but a new study has found that the “cognitive ability” of primates is dependent on inheritance rather than their environment.

The research could be important for understanding the basis of human intelligence and cognitive abilities, as the genes involved in chimp behaviour are likely to have a similar origin to those involved with human intellect.

“As is the case in humans, genes matter when it comes to cognitive abilities in chimpanzees. It doesn’t mean that they are the only factor determining cognitive abilities, but they cannot be ignored,” said study leader William Hopkins, of the Yerkes National Primate Research Centre.

“What specific genes underlie the observed individual differences in cognition is not clear, but pursuing this question may lead to candidate genes that changed in human evolution and allowed for the emergence of some human-specific specialisations in cognition,” Dr Hopkins told the Independent.

For the study, researchers carried out behavioural tests on 99 chimps aged between nine and 54 years. The performance of each ape was measured on a series of standardised cognitive tests for primates.

The results showed that about 50% of the variation in this ability is down to genetic factors, around the same or a little less than humans.

Based on their ability to carry out these experimental tests, chimp intelligence was not influenced by their sex or how they were reared, for example, by chimp mothers or humans.

“We found that some but not all cognitive traits were significantly heritable in chimpanzees,” the researchers said in their scientific paper.

“We further found significant genetic correlations between different dimensions of cognitive functioning, suggesting that the genes that explain the variability of one cognitive trait might also explain that of other cognitive traits.”

Hopkins speculates that these skills, which involve foraging and problem-solving, may inheritable as they affect survival and mating chances.

“Smarter chimps might gain access to more food resources and mates,” he told New Scientist.

Studying the intelligence of chimpanzees could lead to the discovery of specific intelligence-related genes which arose in the last common relative of humans and chimps.

“It is also intriguing to consider what changes in cortical organisation of the brain might be associated with individual differences in cognition and whether common genes might explain their common variance,” Hopkins said.

Researching chimp intelligence has an advantage over human studies because their behaviour is not affected by socio-economic factors, which can influence human performance at IQ tests.

Alex Weiss, a psychologist who studies nonhuman primates at the University of Edinburgh, who was not involved in the study, told Fox News that the findings were “really interesting as these findings mirror what has been found for decades in studies of human twins and human families.”

The research was published in the journal published Current Biology.

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Can scientists save the world’s sea life from "ocean acidification"?

On the Boqueria’s fish stands I count 10 types of bivalves – creatures such as clams, oysters and mussels that use calcium carbonate to make their endlessly varied shells. In as little as 20 years they will be very different and, in some parts of the world, entirely gone. Then there are the ranks of huge Asian prawns and tiny shrimps, terracotta crabs from Scotland, and lobsters, magnificent admirals in blue, fringed with gold. Lucky for them, these creatures make their shells differently (mostly out of a polymer called chitin), so the rapidly acidifying waters of our oceans won’t dissolve them as it will the exteriors of the bivalves. But the acidification – which some scientists believe is the fastest change in the ocean’s chemistry in 300 million years – appears to harm the working of the gills and change the behaviour of the crustaceans when they are very young.

On the crushed ice sit a dozen kinds of finned creatures that the Spanish love – monkfish, hake, sardines, tuna. They eat more fish than anyone else in Europe. The effect of changing ocean chemistry on fish health, longevity and reproduction is not yet certain. But even now, many species on the Boqueria stalls are also on one or more European “at risk” lists: under threat because of overfishing or changes in the chain of foods that supply them, or from the bigger threat of the changing ocean biogeochemistry. The last is the least understood of these phenomena. Along the coasts and out in the deep, huge “dead zones” have been multiplying. They are the emptiest places on the planet, where there’s little oxygen and sometimes no life at all, almost entirely restricted to some unicellular organisms like bacteria. Vast blooms of algae – organisms that thrive in more acid (and less alkaline) seawater and are fed by pollution – have already rendered parts of the Baltic Sea pretty much dead. A third of the marine life in that sea, which once fed all of Northern Europe, is gone and may already be beyond hope of recovery.

“There’s a profound game-changing event going on in the life of the sea,” says Callum Roberts, a professor of marine conservation at the University of York. “Changes in alkalinity are going to cause massive reorganisation of marine life, impacts on marine food webs, productivity, all sorts of things. We’re heading for a car crash.”

Many of these risks are caused by one of the world’s most pressing problems: climate change. Rising greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are causing global temperatures to rise, which is leading to the melting of the polar ice caps, which in turn has resulted in rising sea levels and a host of ecological issues.

It’s also causing the chemical make-up of the world’s oceans to change so rapidly. Carbon dioxide, one of the key perpetrators in the line-up of man-made greenhouse gases, is absorbed by seawater, causing a chemical reaction near the ocean surface that results in lowered pH levels. And about one-third of all the man-made carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere ends up absorbed by the oceans. Carles Pelejero, a scientist working less than a mile from La Boqueria at the Institut de Cienciès del Mar (ICM), on Barcelona’s seafront, calls it “climate change’s evil twin”.

“In pre-industrial times the ocean’s pH was 8.2. It has already gone down to 8.1,” says Pelejero. “Depending on what we do, it will reach an average of 7.8 or 7.7 by 2100. It hasn’t been that low for 55 million years.”

Pelejero leads part of the ICM’s marine biogeochemistry research, but his field is even more specific: marine paleo-reconstruction. You might call it seabed archaeology; it uses drills to take samples from deep in the sediment at the bottom of the ocean. Scientists can use those samples to work out how the geochemistry of sea creatures has changed over the millennia. Pelejero started in this business in the mid-1990s, using the remains of plankton in the sediments on the ocean floor to determine historic sea surface temperatures.

Watery grave: scientists are warning that climate change is changing the chemical make-up of oceans, meaning that the fish in La Boqueria market could become a thing of the past (Getty Images)

In 1998, while studying a graph at a conference, Joanie Kleypas, an American biologist working on coral reefs, had a eureka moment. When she realised that the lowered alkalinity at the end of the 21st century would in effect corrode the calcium carbonate foundation of the reefs to destruction, she was so horrified she left the room to be sick. Her paper, published in the journal Science in 1999, was an alarm call. Other scientists quickly dubbed the effect “ocean acidification”– although the seas would not actually turn to acid, the phrase, they reckoned, would emphasise the urgency and get action. Coral reefs are necessary to an estimated 25 per cent of all marine life, including 4,000 species of fish. They are the rainforests of the sea.

Around the same time, Pelejero’s colleagues turned their core-sampling techniques to work out how the ocean and its animals behaved long ago, when the water pH was lower. What they found was horrifying. During a 100,000-year-long event known as the Palaeo-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), which occurred between the Palaeo and Eocene epochs, 55 million years ago, “you see that the sediment is quite white from the fossil shells – then suddenly it turns red,” Pelejero says. “Because there are no shells at all. Then it turns white again – but the change back took more than 100,000 years.” The first change from white to red represents a sudden die-off of shell-based life; the turn back to white shows the gradual return of shellfish over time. If projections hold, the pH change that killed off or radically altered many of the deep ocean shell animals will arrive again at the end of this century.

What worries Pelejero most is the rapidity of today’s changes. The same shifts that happened over the course of a few thousand years during the PETM are now due to happen over just a few centuries, counting from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and the widespread use of fossil fuels. “Though pH has been lower in the past, this time the changes are happening about 10 times faster. And that means there is no time for species to evolve and adapt, or the ocean to buffer itself,” Pelejero says. “It’s clear that the ocean is acidifying, much clearer than that the world is warming. And we know that most of the effect is caused by man’s actions. The only argument among scientists is over how much damage is being done.”

Already some effects are being seen. Across the world, shells of some animals are thinner than they were 300 years ago. An acidification spike around the coast of British Columbia, Canada, in February 2014 wiped out 10 million scallops. Foraminifera, the tiniest shelled plankton in the ocean, are having trouble growing – and plankton is the food base of every animal in the sea. Coccolithophores, the shelled plankton that process sunlight like a plant, and whose remains built the White Cliffs of Dover, suffer from changes in ocean chemistry.

Pteropods, tiny swimming snails, are the main diet of cold-water fish most commonly consumed in both Europe and North America – salmon, haddock, cod and pollack. In the lab, pteropods dissolve in lowered alkali waters, like a tooth in Coca-Cola. In the Arctic, where acidification is progressing fastest, pteropods may already be on the way out. It is as though the Earth were losing its grass, and the cows had nothing to eat.

A day after visiting the fish markets, I lounged on the deck of a tiny boat off the northern Catalan coast, as oceanologists threw up into the lurching waves around us. We were off to take ICM’s monthly water samples. The boat is skippered by a remarkable man, 63-year-old Josep Pascual. As a boy, he went out in this boat with his father and grandfather to fish. “I used to listen to them, talking about the weather and the sea temperature, and I got interested.”

He decided to add some hard data to the family debate. So since the mid-1960s he has been building his own instruments, and taking a daily record of sea temperatures at different depths in the Mediterranean current off the fishing port of Estartit, Spain. “I’d read in a book that there were no tides in the Mediterranean – I wanted to prove that was wrong,” Pascual says. He succeeded, and he has also shown that the average sea level in the Mediterranean has risen about 3.5 inches over the past 24 years. That is in line with the global calculations of melting ice cover made by climate change scientists. The rising sea levels, of course, are caused by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere – which are also what’s causing acidification.

Coral reefs are necessary to an estimated 25 per cent of all marine life, including 4,000 species of fish (Rex Features)

Pascual’s work came to the attention of the ICM in the early 1970s. Ever since then, ICM and Pascual have worked together. The fishing nets on the Fiera del Mar are now replaced by global positioning systems, depth-measuring tools and complex thermometer instruments. They have done this long enough to prove significant warming of the Costa Brava sea.

Seven years ago, sponsored chiefly by the Catalan and Spanish governments, Pascual, Pelejero and their assistants started making monthly trips to measure the ocean’s acidity. These have yet to produce conclusive results – there hasn’t yet been enough time to confirm the clear drop in pH that has been observed out in the open oceans.

Pascual is a smiling, sea-worn man, his nut-brown face in sharp contrast to the biochemists’ laboratory pallor. I ask what he really thinks is going on. “What I’m shocked by most is the rising sea level – and I am convinced this is caused by climate change, and that it is mankind that has done it,” he says. “It’s worrying, because the oceans are so important in capturing the carbon. They thermo-regulate the planet. These changes in their systems are very big, and they should make us worry.”

The one thing that the Boqueria fishmonger doesn’t sell is jellyfish (there’s not much demand for them in Spain, or anywhere else in Europe), though you can find them, dried to a plastic scab, in some Chinese supermarkets. There are those who say that jellyfish and plankton are all that your average wild seafood eater will have for supper by the end of the century – the very rich will likely still be able to pay for ultra-rare food items. That’s because, as the food chain’s intricate links collapse, the complex species will go first, leaving only the most simple. “The oceans [will] revert to the earliest days of multicellular life,” Roberts drily puts it. There’s a terrifying argument that jellyfish – who rather enjoy acidification – are already taking over the seas, if not the world.

The answers are not easy. Some of the clever “geoengineering” suggestions offered to tackle global warming – such as artificially cutting off sunlight – won’t work for the oceans, because we can’t just incrementally slow down the acidification – we have to remove the excess carbon dioxide that’s already out there in the atmosphere.

Doing that takes economically painful initiatives – replanting vast areas of forest to recapture carbon, for example, and, above all, simply stopping the burning of fossil fuels.

There are some causes for hope. Some world leaders are beginning to take these threats more seriously. In June, for example, the Obama administration announced a series of measures aimed to conserve the ocean as a key food supply for more than three billion of us. These included more ocean sanctuaries to curtail overfishing, and new funds to research ocean biochemistry, including acidification.

Roberts, for his part, says that he has been happy to see that coral reefs have proved more adaptable – faster and faster at recovering from the effects of acid and ozone layer depletion – than scientists previously thought. Recent research suggests than in the more acidic waters predicted for the late 21st century, the reefs may survive a little better than Kleypas and her colleagues originally expected.

“That’s got to be cause for hope,” says Roberts. “But these are isolated instances – they say life is possible in these altered environments, they don’t say that means species will thrive in 2100. Evidence from around the world is that they will not. We have the loss of one of the world’s major habitats on the cards. It’s already happening.”

A version of this article appeared in Newsweek (c) Newsweek, Inc. All rights reserved.

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