Antarctic crabeater seals, which feed on krill. Photo courtesy of www.NewScientist.com
The Environmental News Network recently reported the findings from a comprehensive study of the complex food networks of the Southern Ocean. The result? Food webs in this highly productive ocean area are being impacted by climate change and greenhouse gasses.
One of their specific findings was that big areas in the Southern Ocean are absorbing large amounts of CO2, which in turn makes waters more acidic. This increased acidity “makes it more difficult for animals that create their own shells and some algae to gather carbonate ions from the seawater”, making it harder for them to survive. Such primary producers and invertebrates are key components of many food webs, and therefore as they decline so too may the larger invertebrates, fish, and even marine mammals that rely on them.
You can read more in the full Environmental News Network article, here.
In our efforts to continue conserving endangered marine species and the habitats upon which they rely, PDXWildlife plans to conduct research and outreach projects addressing how human consumption of fragile fish stocks affects the stability and productivity of marine food webs and ecosystems. Keep checking back with us for more information!
This will be the final installment of the research updates I wrote while working in the Philippines. The main objective of the research arm of our project was to establish whether dugongs (Dugong dugon), an endangered marine mammal species related to manatees, were still present in the island group in northern Palawan where we were working. Dugongs used to be present in large numbers in the Philippines, but hunting pressure and incidental bycatch of dugongs in fishing gear has led to their decline in recent decades. Where once there were herds of 25 animals or more it is now rare to see one or two. Our task was to interview the local fishermen in different communities around Busuanga to find out what they knew about the presence of dugongs in their fishing grounds, and to discover the local attitudes towards dugongs and their conservation. This was by far the most exciting part of our conservation research, and an amazing way to get to see daily life through the eyes of families who have been living in these villages for decades or even generations.
A typical house in the Tagbanua community. The Tagbanua are the locally indigenous people of Palawan, and although they live together with Filipinos originating from all parts of the country in Busuanga they will often live in close-knit communities within or on the outskirts of these rural towns.
Children from the Tagbanua community in Concepcion.
A fisherman being interviewed outside his home in Concepcion. On the left is our fearless program assistant and Tagalog translator Jessa!
- A fisherman indicating dugong sightings on a map of the area. During interviews fishermen were asked to give specific locations, dates and times of sightings as well as any human interactions they observed.
While I heard some amazing (and recent!) stories about dugong sightings, what was amazing about these conversations was that older fishermen would consistently bring up how important they thought it was that people in the community care for the dugongs and marine life. Many fishermen said that seeing the dugongs made them happy and content, and that they were concerned about the recent decline in dugong numbers because they wanted their children and grandchildren to also know about these animals and be able to enjoy them. I was repeatedly surprised by the honesty of many of the responses we received, and the overall concern these fishermen have for the long-term health of their marine resources. With so much cooperation and support for our presence in these communities future phases of this project will now be able to directly assess the status of dugongs and their habitat in the areas of highest concern. To find out more about this and other projects conducted by Community Centred Conservation (C3) you can check out their facebook page; http://www.facebook.com/C3update, and to read my full review of the experience as well as those of others you can check out their intern review blog at http://c3experiences.wordpress.com/2011/11/30/c3-internship-review-diana-dishman-philippines-2011/. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little taste of conservation and outreach in the Philippines – PDXWildlife is hoping to kick off its own community outreach projects to help conserve our local wildlife soon, so keep checking back to see what new projects may be coming up!
Sunset in Coron.
If you’re in the Florence area on October 29th and want to completely geek out on marine science head to the Heceta Head Coastal Conference.
Heceta Head Lighthouse
“This year’s program features the fresh faces leading ocean research in Oregon. Participants will learn about the cutting edge of marine science in our waters, focusing on new discoveries and future directions, including a student research poster session highlighting the next generation of Oregon’s scientists from colleges and universities throughout our state. Join us as we look ahead to confronting the challenges facing our ocean, how they are being addressed, and how results will impact YOU!”
Nate and I will be presenting some of our mercury findings in a poster so look for us there!
P.S. And while you’re there don’t forget to visit the Heceta Head Light House located in Heceta Head State Park; tidepools and outstanding wildlife viewing!