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Environmental Monitoring


September 2015 Issue

Carbon Dioxide Shifts
Reefs to Algae Carpets

Scientists from NOAA and the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science have documented a dramatic shift from vibrant coral communities to carpets of algae in remote Pacific Ocean waters where an underwater volcano spews carbon dioxide.

The research, published in Nature Climate Change, provides a stark look into the future of ocean acidification.

Healthy coral reefs provide food and shelter for abundant fisheries, support tourism and protect shorelines from storms. A shift from coral to algae-covered rocks is typically accompanied by a loss of species diversity and the benefits that reefs provide.

The research was conducted on Maug, an uninhabited volcanic island in the Northern Mariana Islands about 450 mi. from Guam. This location allowed scientists to single out a small geographic area that experiences carbon dioxide levels that vary from present day to those predicted for a hundred years in the future.

Underwater instruments measuring the effects of carbon dioxide showed that coral cover decreased under higher levels of carbon dioxide, giving way to less desirable algae-covered rocks near the volcano’s vents.

Latest Analysis of
St. Johns River Basin
The latest report on the lower St. Johns River Basin shows positive signs of the waterway’s health improving, but reveals concerns of deterioration.

Some positive trends include: lower nitrogen levels; a decline in fecal coliform; improvement in turbidity—a key test of water quality; and a drop in phosphorus levels.

There are also some positive trends that haven’t changed much over the years, including generally healthy and stable fisheries, as well as stable threatened/endangered species.
There are some factors indicating declining river health, including an increase in overall surface water discharges of toxic chemicals; contaminated sediments; high levels of phytoplankton, including algal blooms with potentially harmful levels of cyanobacteria toxins; and fish consumption advisories due to mercury.

Eavesdropping to Assess Reef Health
Scientists have tested a surprisingly cheap and effective way to assess the health of vulnerable coral reefs and to monitor threats on remote atolls: eavesdropping.

In a study published in Marine Ecology Progress Series, scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) used low-cost autonomous underwater recorders over four months to collect soundscapes of reefs in the U.S. Virgin Islands. They showed how the collective sound recordings of reef inhabitants painted vivid pictures of the reefs’ abundance and diversity.

In a second study, the researchers recorded boat noise—showing how it could mask vital sounds that organisms make to reproduce, feed and find new homes. They also demonstrated how underwater recorders could help marine managers keep an ear on potentially disruptive human activity in far-off locations.

North Celtic Sea
Seismic Survey

GeoPartners, in partnership with MAGE, Seabird Exploration and DownUnder GeoSolutions, have acquired a new regional multiclient 2D (MC2D) seismic survey: North Celtic Sea 2015. This Ireland/U.K. cross-border project is located mostly in the Irish North Celtic Sea and St. Georges Channel.

A total survey size up to 6,000 km of long offset broadband data is planned.
This project aims to provide the high-quality, extensive, regional data set lacking in this geophysically challenging area. Dip lines have been planned to complement vintage data, and a strike-line orientation should minimize side-swipe from faults.

The survey provides well ties to most of the wells in the survey area.

Broadband processing and imaging will be carried out by DownUnder GeoSolutions. Processing will be completed in January 2016.

Panama Canal Advisory
Regarding El Niño

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) issued an Advisory to Shipping, which sets a draft restriction for all shipping agents, owners and operators working with the canal. These temporary and preventive measures are due to an anticipated climatic variability event related to El Niño.

El Niño has triggered a drought in the canal watershed, causing the water levels of Gatun and Alhajuela Lakes to fall substantially. The advisory set the maximum draft at 11.89 m Tropical Fresh Water (TFW), effective September 8.These measures were to be taken to ensure the continuous and safe operation of the canal during this period.

ACP updated its advisory late August by suspending the draft restriction, citing the amount of recent rainfall received in the Canal watershed, water conservation measures and channel deepening.

Environmental Assessment
For Quebec Deepwater Wharf

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency will be conducting a federal environmental assessment of the proposed Port of Quebec Deep-Water Multipurpose Wharf Project.

The Quebec Port Authority is proposing the extension of the existing wharf line by 610 m in order to add two 16-m deepwater berths at its Beauport Sector bulk shipment facilities. It would also consolidate and redevelop the Beauport Bay beach to protect it from erosion.

Funding for Phase Two of AAOSN
Following the successful completion of the initial phase, SeeByte, ASV and the Marine Biological Association of the U.K. have been awarded funding to carry out phase two of the Adaptive Autonomous Ocean Sampling Networks (AAOSN) SBRI call.

The aim of the project is to reduce the complexity and frequency of operator input when supervising large fleets of autonomous systems from shore.

Extending the tagged fish work carried out in phase one, this second phase will seek to design autonomous behaviors to address five scenarios: oil spill, passive acoustic monitoring (PAM), seabed mapping, fish tracking, and tidal mixing.


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