#Germany; #newSpeiciesOfTurtle, #Discovery
Frankfurt (Germany), Apr 27 (Canadian-Media): Together with an international team, Senckenberg scientist Uwe Fritz described a new species of mata mata turtle based on genetic analyses, phys.org/news reports said.
Based on genetic analyses, a second species of mata mata turtle was discovered. Credit: Rune Midtgaard
Until now, it had been assumed that the genus Chelus only contained a single species. The new description also necessitates a reassessment of the conservation status of these species, which are frequently sold in the illegal animal trade. The study was recently published in the scientific journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.
There is a good reason for the bizarre appearance of the mata mata turtle: hidden in the mud under water, the up to 53-centimeter-long animals look like algae-covered rocks. But when a prey animal approaches, the turtle sucks it in by suddenly opening its large mouth and swallows it whole.
"Although these turtles are widely known due to their bizarre looks and their unusual feeding behavior, surprisingly little is known about their variability and genetics," explains Professor Dr. Uwe Fritz of the Senckenberg Natural History Collections in Dresden, and he continues, "Until now, we assumed that there is only one species of this armored reptile that ranges widely across South America."
But such supposedly widespread species, which are not considered endangered, can be full of surprises—based on genetic analyses, they are often split into two or more independent species. "Several studies have pointed out individual mata mata turtles look differently in the Orinoco River compared to the Amazon Basin. Based on this observation, we decided to take a closer look at these animals' genetic makeup," adds the scientist from Dresden.
The newly described species Chelus orinocensis is found in the Orinoco and Río Negro basins. Credit: Mónica A. Morales-BetancourtUsing 75 DNA samples, the researchers were able to show that, contrary to previous assumptions, there are two genetically and morphologically well-differentiated species of mata mata turtles. The newly described species Chelus orinocensis inhabits the Orinoco and Río Negro basins, while the species known as Chelus fimbriata is restricted exclusively to the Amazon basin.
According to the study, the two species split during the late Miocene, around 13 million years ago. During this period, the former Amazon-Orinoco Basin began separating into the two river basins known today. Numerous aquatic animal species were thus spatially separated and began to diverge genetically.
The description of the new species also necessitates a reassessment of the mata mata's conservation status. "To date, this species was not considered endangered, based on its widespread distribution. However, our results show that, due to the split into two species, the population size of each species is smaller than previously assumed. In addition, every year, thousands of these bizarre-looking animals end up in the illegal animal trade and are confiscated by the authorities. We must protect these fascinating animals before it is too late," adds the study's lead author, Professor Mario Vargas-Ramírez, a former researcher of Senckenberg who now works at the National University of Colombia in Bogotá.
#Vancouver; #BritishColumbia; #FiveYearOceansProtectionPlan; #BernadetteJordan; #CoastalRestorationFund;#Fisheries&OceansCanada; #RestoringAcquaticHabitatOfCanada
Vancouver (British Columbia), Mar 10 (Canadian-Media): An announcement of over $13 million in funding through Oceans Protection Plan, was made Tuesday at a gathering of over 80 participants, by Bernadette Jordan, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, as part of the Coastal Restoration Fund for 24 projects to restore and protect aquatic ecosystems on Canada’s three coasts, media reports said.
Bernadette Jordan. Image credit: Facebook
The participants had gathered for a three-day workshop to exchange best practices of their coastal habitat protection and recovery efforts.
Since the launch the five-year $1.5 billion-Oceans Protection Plan in November 2016, Government of Canada has been investing in hundreds of projects to increase the strength of marine safety system, protection of our coastal environments and marine species.
The $75 million Coastal Restoration Fund announced by the Government of Canada in May 2017 has funded 64 partnered projects and supported marine mammal response efforts.
Almost all projects have been designed and implemented by involve Indigenous Peoples and over 37 percent of the projects are led by Indigenous organizations.
#Sweden; #UK; #GlobalOceanAlliance; #MarineProtectionTarget; #BiologicalDiversity
Sweden, Feb 23 (Canadian-Media): United Kingdom (U.K.)'s Global Ocean Alliance has been joined by Sweden to help drive urgent action to safeguard the ocean and protect its precious wildlife, media reports said.
World's marine environments including marine life and habitats are being damaged and threatened by rising sea temperatures, deoxygenation, acidification, habitat loss, overfishing and pollution.
The UK-led international coalition aims to tackle these impacts and safeguard at least 30 percent of the global ocean in Marine Protected Areas by 2030.
The newest member of the Alliance, Sweden was officially welcomed by the International Environment Minister, Zac Goldsmith, during a keynote speech at WWF’s ‘Blue Road to Glasgow’ ocean conference on Feb 19.
Zac Goldsmith, during a keynote speech at WWF’s ‘Blue Road to Glasgow’ ocean conference on Feb 19. Image credit: Facebook
He said that UK aims to make our ocean more resilient through this global alliance and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In the 2020 Year of Climate Action, the UK is taking a world-leading approach to marine conservation.
UK is the first country to commit to net-zero emissions by 2050, the UK led the call for a global 30 per cent ocean protection target at the 2018 United Nations General Assembly.
These initiatives are backed by many countries as part of a nature-based solutions to improve ocean resilience.
With 357 Marine Protected Areas, the UK is at the forefront of marine protection. 40 percent of English waters are designated as marine protection areas, setting an example for the rest of the world to follow.
An announcement was made by UK Prime Minister at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2019 regarding a Global Ocean Alliance of countries in initial support of the 30by30 target.
Countries that have signed up so far include: Belgium, Belize, Costa Rica, Finland, Gabon, Kenya, Nigeria, Palau, Portugal, Seychelles, Sweden and Vanuatu.
All the countries are invited this year by the UK Government to sign up with the aim that 30by30 marine protection target will be agreed as part of a new global biodiversity framework at the Convention on Biological Diversity Conference of Parties in October 2020.
#FishGeneticDiversity; #NatureConservative; #DNASequence
New York, Feb 11 (Canadian-Media): An international research team has studied genetic diversity among fish around the world for the first time. Their research produced a map that will serve as a tool in improving the protection of species and genetic diversity in the future, sciencedaily.com news release said.
Fish Genetic Diversity. Image credit: Twitter
In a population of animals or plants, genetic diversity can decline much more quickly than species diversity in response to various stress factors: disease, changes to habitat or climate, and so on. Yet not much is known about fish genetic diversity around the world.
Help on that front is now on the way from an international team of scientists from French universities and ETH Zurich. They have produced the first global distribution map for genetic diversity among freshwater and marine fish. Furthermore, they identified the environmental factors that are instrumental in determining the distribution of genetic diversity. Their study was recently published in the journal Nature Communications.
Genetic diversity is unevenly distributed
To begin their study, the researchers analysed a database that contained the data of over 50,000 DNA sequences representing 3,815 species of marine fish and 1,611 species of freshwater fish. From this sequence data, the scientists estimated the average genetic diversity in sections of bodies of water, each section measuring 200 square kilometres.
Their analysis revealed that genetic diversity is unevenly distributed throughout marine and freshwater fish. The greatest genetic diversity was found among marine fish in the western Pacific Ocean, the northern Indian Ocean and the Caribbean. Among freshwater fish, genetic diversity was greatest in South America, but comparatively low in Europe.
In addition, the researchers determined that temperature is a key factor influencing genetic diversity among marine fish: as the temperature rises, so does diversity. By contrast, the key determinants of genetic diversity in freshwater fish were the complexity of their habitat structure and how their habitats have changed over time.
Impact on nature conservation strategies
The researchers see their study as a tool in efforts to improve conservation of genetic diversity and in turn biodiversity. Their map makes it easier to detect hotspots of species and genetic diversity and to plan appropriate protective action. Maintaining the genetic diversity is crucial, say the researchers. "The more diverse a population's gene pool is, the higher the potential for adaptation to environmental changes," explains Loïc Pellissier, co-lead author of the study and Professor at ETH's Institute of Terrestrial Ecosystems.
Based on the findings, Pellissier predicts that fish populations will have potentially differing levels of adaptability in various areas of their range. "When setting up conservation areas, this characteristic has to be taken into account with respect to location, size and ecological connectivity," he says.
Protective measures thus far have concentrated primarily on maintaining species diversity. For example, several years ago Switzerland launched a program for monitoring species diversity within its borders, but Pellissier believes this is not enough. "If we want to protect our biodiversity, we also have to monitor the genetic diversity of populations. This is the only way to ensure that the pool of varied genetic material is large enough to enable the survival of species under changing environmental conditions," he explains.
The current study was made possible by a large number of local researchers who sequenced DNA samples from fish and shared the data in a publicly accessible database (http://www.barcodinglife.org). "This is a clear demonstration of how important open data is for the global study of natural processes," Pellissier says.
#FourNewSpeciesOfTropicSharksDiscovered; #WalkingSharks; #NorthernAustralia; #NewGuinea;
Queensland (Australia), Jan 24 (Canadian-Media): The discovery of four new species of tropical sharks in waters that use their fins to walk off northern Australia and New Guinea caused fear and worry to small fish and invertebrates, University of Queensland (UQ) in Australia research reports said.
Walking sharks. Image credit: Twitter
It wa during a 12-year study with Conservation International, the CSIRO, Florida Museum of Natural History, that the Indonesian Institute of Sciences and Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries discovered the walking sharks.
Ornately patterned sharks used their fins to walk in very shallow water, said UQ's Dr Christine Dudgeon, to prey on reefs during low tides.
"At less than a metre long on average, walking sharks present no threat to people but their ability to withstand low oxygen environments and walk on their fins gives them a remarkable edge over their prey of small crustaceans and molluscs," Dr Dudgeon said.
"These unique features are not shared with their closest relatives the bamboo sharks or more distant relatives in the carpet shark order including wobbegongs and whale sharks.
The four new species almost doubled the total number of known walking sharks to nine.
Dr Dudgeon said they live in coastal waters around northern Australia and the island of New Guinea, and occupy their own separate region.
"We estimated the connection between the species based on comparisons between their mitochondrial DNA which is passed down through the maternal lineage. This DNA codes for the mitochondria which are the parts of cells that transform oxygen and nutrients from food into energy for cells," Dr Dudgeon said.
"Data suggests the new species evolved after the sharks moved away from their original population, became genetically isolated in new areas and developed into new species," she said.
"They may have moved by swimming or walking on their fins, but it's also possible they 'hitched' a ride on reefs moving westward across the top of New Guinea, about two million years ago.
"We believe there are more walking shark species still waiting to be discovered."
Dr Dudgeon said future research would help researchers to better understand why the region was home to some of the greatest marine biodiversity on the planet.
A research team from Tohoku University -- internationally recognized for its outstanding standards in education and research located in Sendai, Japan -- has utilized modeling analysis to indicate that environmental factors act as a determinant in the timing of mass spawning.
During the early summer, corals simultaneously release tiny balls composed of sperms and eggs, known as bundles, that float to the ocean surface. Here the bundles open, allowing the sperm to fertilize the eggs where they eventually settle on the seafloor and become new coral on the reef.
This spectacular annual event is known as "mass-spawning," and usually occurs at night. Although the occurrence of mass-spawning happens around the time of a full moon, it is difficult to predict precisely when. Now, a research team from Tohoku University, Ochanomizu University, and the National Institute for Basic Biology have utilized modeling analysis to indicate that environmental factors act as a determinant in the timing of mass spawning.
"Coral spawning is a complex phenomenon," says Shinchiro Maruyama, an assistant professor at Tohoku University. "It is too complicated to model all the factors involved in a spawning event, so we decided to focus on which day they spawn. Although we know that they spawn a few hours after the dusk, the days can differ according to regions, and even within the same reef."
Maruyama and his team utilized a multidisciplinary approach to address the role of environmental factors, such as temperature; wind speed; and sunlight, to determine the night of spawning, teaming up with specialists in ecology, statistics, physiology, developmental biology, and evolutionary biology. Drawing upon field research, satellite data and literature reviews, they discovered that corals changed the nights of spawning according to the environmental conditions for a period of time before 'the big night.'
Maruyama adds that, "Such fine-tuning for the night of spawning might be advantageous for corals to maximize their chances or meeting future partners in the vast expanses of the ocean."
Coral reefs are a natural treasure of biodiversity in the ocean and understanding mass-spawning gives us further insight into their behavior. Identifying that environmental changes play a role in the mass-spawning timing provides a building block for scientists to address corals behavior going forward.
#Fisheries&Oceans; #MarineProtectedAreas; #Biodiversity; #Conservation; #ecosystem; #SustainableFisheries
Germany, Jan 15 (Canadian-Media): Marine protected areas reduce fish mortality by limiting harvesting and reducing habitat destruction. They are often designed and implemented to promote biodiversity conservation and sustainable fisheries, sciencedaily.com/release reports said.
New research shows these conservation efforts lead not only to an increase in the total number of fishes (individuals) in general.
Protected areas in the northern Mediterranean Sea also harbour a higher number of common fish species, and significant positive network effects accumulate between individual reserves.
This was found by a team of researchers from multiple institutions including the German Centre of Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Tel Aviv University, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ).
Their results have been published in the Journal of Applied Ecology and shed new light onto how fish communities respond to protection.
Coastal regions of the Mediterranean are home to more than one hundred million of people. For centuries, these regions have been impacted by multiple human stressors -- such as nutrient pollution and harvesting of natural resources.
Currently, 6.5% of the Mediterranean Sea is designated with some level of protection, though less than 1% is fully protected from all extractive uses, including fishing. Such protection is known to increase the number of individuals and fish biomass inside protected areas, but the effect on the number of species (species richness) is more variable, and evidence for biodiversity gains through protection is mixed. The international team of researchers examined how fish biodiversity in the Mediterranean responded to protection by comparing the numbers of individuals, the relative abundance of species and how they are distributed in space, for fishes inside and outside of protected areas.
The researchers found that conservation has strong impacts on biodiversity. Most notable effects were found on the relative abundance of species in protected areas. Rare and common species were disproportionately affected by protection. In particular, there were more common species inside individual protected areas, as well as at the scale of all protected areas combined.
The researchers found that species most sensitive to exploitation responded more strongly to protection than species less sensitive to exploitation. Exploited species showed gains in the number of individuals inside protected areas, the number of common species, as well as of all species combined. Importantly, the increase in the number of common species with high sensitivity to exploitation was greater at regional than local scales. This reflects a tendency for different protected sites to have different exploited species. As a result, biodiversity benefits from a network of protected areas within an ecosystem.
"We found this network effect in reserves that were independently implemented, so they were not necessarily designed to combine as a network. It would be interesting to know whether similar patterns are found in networks of reserves designed with a particular focus, such as to maximize habitat diversity or promote connectivity among reserves," said first author Dr Shane Blowes from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU).
The research shows that examining multiple biodiversity components across scales gives new insights into how communities respond to protection. The findings of the team suggest that protection could help reverse taxonomic homogenisation that is possibly associated with harvesting, and that local biodiversity conservation initiatives can combine synergistically across a regional system of marine protected areas.
#OceanInnovation; #SDG14LifeBelowWater; #UNDP; #UN; #OceanInnovationChallenge
New York, Jan 11: The momentum on ocean protection and restoration has rapidly accelerated particularly since the 2017 Ocean Conference. However, a number of the SDG 14- Life Below Water targets still lag behind. Between overfishing, pollution, habitat loss and the multiple impacts of climate change on ocean ecosystems, the ocean has never faced such a diverse range of threats, UNDP reports said.
Image credit: iStock.com/RainervonBrandis
UNDP launches a new call to action— Ocean Innovation Challenge (OIC) to accelerate progress on SDG 14 targets. The OIC seeks innovations that are transferable, replicable and scalable. The Challenge grants range from $50,000 to $250,000.
Recognizing the increasing urgency of tackling ocean pollution, particularly from plastics and nutrients, the first of several planned OICs focuses on SDG 14.1- Reduce Marine Pollution.
“At a time when the world’s oceans and seas face unprecedented pressures, UNDP’s new Ocean Innovation Challenge will shine a light on innovative, entrepreneurial and creative approaches that can advance ocean and coastal restoration and protection,” says Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator.
“Supporting the blue economy in this way can help us achieve SDG 14— while spurring economic development and helping to reduce poverty and inequality.”
From fisheries to aquaculture to industrial agriculture, the 'business as usual' scenario will not deliver the kinds of transformational change needed to move towards truly sustainable ocean use.
“With four of SDG14’s ten targets maturing in 2020, we have a critical year ahead for the well-being of the Ocean. Thus the UN Ocean Conference, to be held 2-6 June 2020 in Lisbon, will have special importance in supporting the implementation of SDG14,” says Peter Thomson, UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy on Oceans.
“To achieve SDG14, we must break new ground with innovative technologies, policies, regulations and financial instruments. In this regard, the new UNDP Ocean Innovation Challenge is a most welcome addition to the growing number of ocean incubators and accelerators.”
For interested parties to take part in the Ocean Innovation Challenge:
The innovations to be submitted can include technological as well as cutting edge policy, regulatory, financial, economic or other actions that address either sea-based or land-based sectors.
Initial concepts can be submitted by public or private entities, including governments, private companies (including start-ups), NGO/CSO, United Nations entities, academic institutions, and intergovernmental organizations.
The Challenge must be implemented in and benefit stakeholders in developing countries, but may be submitted by developing or developed country proponents.
For more information and to submit a preliminary concept, see the Ocean Innovation Challenge website at www.oceaninnovationchallenge.org .
UNDP partners with people at all levels of society to help build nations that can withstand crisis, and drive and sustain the kind of growth that improves the quality of life for everyone. On the ground in nearly 170 countries and territories, we offer global perspective and local insight to help empower lives and build resilient nations. www.undp.org.
#Oceanography; #CollborativeConservativeApproach; #EndangeredReefFish
California (U.S.), Jan 7 (Canadian-Media): A new study from researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego has documented a successful recovery effort among Nassau Grouper populations in the Cayman Islands thanks to an approach involving government agencies, academic researchers, and nonprofit organizations, phys.org/news/2020 reports said.
A researcher swims in the midst of a Nassau Grouper aggregation as part of an ongoing effort to track the critically endangered species numbers. Image Credit: Paul Humann, copyright Grouper Moon Project
The study, published January 6, 2020 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, used a two-pronged approach including tagging and video census data for monitoring and counting Nassau Grouper populations in an effort to more accurately estimate annual numbers of fish in the population and thus provide insight into the effects of ongoing conservation efforts. While many governments have enacted regional or seasonal fishing closures in an attempt to allow recovery of overfished stocks of aggregating reef fishes, this is one of the first studies to provide evidence that these measures can be successful.
"Normally, Nassau Grouper are relatively solitary, and tend to be hard to catch," said Lynn Waterhouse, a former Ph.D. student in the Semmens Lab at Scripps Oceanography and research biologist at the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. "But at spawning, they come together en masse to form annual spawning aggregations, where historically tens of thousands of fish come together to reproduce, so they're very easy for fishermen to catch."
Due to overfishing during spawning, the species has suffered region-wide stock collapse. By the 1980s large aggregations had all but disappeared from the Caribbean region. Of the remaining aggregations, few contained more than 1,000 individuals and the species is currently listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
In 2001, an aggregation of around 7,000 Nassau Grouper was discovered near Little Cayman, the smallest of the three islands located south of Cuba in the Caribbean Sea.
In 2003, the subsequent rapid overfishing of the aggregation drove the Cayman Islands Government to enact aggressive management policies by banning fishing at aggregation sites during the spawning season. Through the Grouper Moon Project, the Cayman Islands Department of Environment (CI-DOE) partnered with a citizen conservation group called Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) and scientists from Scripps Oceanography and Oregon State University to develop a monitoring strategy for the remaining Cayman Island aggregations.
"We developed a unique approach for monitoring these populations over the course of nearly two decades," said senior author Brice Semmens, an associate professor and ecologist at Scripps Oceanography. "This included a combination of using mark and recapture tagging techniques to track the proportion of tagged fish and video transects to count fish across the aggregation."
The researchers faced a number of obstacles, including funding challenges and particularly difficult monitoring conditions—the Nassau Grouper has the unfortunate habit of aggregating at inconvenient and often dangerous locations along the reef shelf edge, making it difficult for divers to easily observe and tag the aggregation. But with the support of the CI-DOE, the team has been able to maintain their monitoring efforts for over 15 years.
Importantly, the researchers did not just track the number of fish in the aggregation—they worked together with the CI-DOE and local communities to share results and discuss next steps. After reviewing the data being collected by the Grouper Moon Project, in 2016 the government initiated an even more progressive fishing policy, banning all fishing of Nassau Grouper during the winter spawning season along with limits on the number and size of fish that can be kept.
As a result, the team was astonished at how quickly the Nassau Grouper population recovered—over the last 10 years the aggregation on Little Cayman had nearly tripled in size, going from around 1,200 fish in 2009 to over 7,000 in 2018. This growth was due, at least in part, to a rapid increase in the addition of new, younger fish to the aggregation.
"This really demonstrates the power of this collaborative approach to conservation," said co-author Christy Pattengill-Semmens, REEF's director of science. "We were able to monitor the population and provide information to support management as the data came in, allowing the Cayman government to respond rapidly with policy changes.
"These efforts have been successful because of the strength of the partnerships among the government, academic research groups, and nonprofits," she added. "CI-DOE also has a long history of working with fishing communities in the islands."
The team also emphasized that these results show that patience is key.
"Due to the way these fish breed and the timing and location of spawning events, it can take several generations before the right ocean conditions ultimately facilitate young grouper joining an aggregation," said Pattengill-Semmens. "This means that communities and governments may need to implement protection strategies over the course of years or even decades to meet their management targets."
"This is an ideal approach for conservation," said Semmens. "Just doing the science isn't enough. You need to partner with groups and governments capable of turning science into conservation decisions that support the local community."
#WestCoastWaters; #acidifying; #foraminifera; #humanCausedCO2Emissions;
California, Dec 22 (CAnadian-Media): After examining the core samples from the bottom of the Santa Barbara Channel, it was revealed reveal that the waters off the California coast are acidifying twice as fast as the global average, media reports said.
The results of a new study to track the thickness of shells belonging to microscopic animals called foraminifera that had accumulated in Channel sediment over the last 125 years was conducted by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists showed California waters experienced a 0.21 decline in pH in that time, more than double the worldwide average of 0.1 pH.
Scientists measured the thickness of microscopic foraminifera shells trapped in Santa Barbara Channel sediment to track the rate of ocean acidification over the last 125 years. | Credit: noaa
Chemical reaction in the water caused due to increasing amounts of man-made emissions of CO2 absorption by the ocean increase the water’s acidity. Besides causing more frequent and more toxic algae blooms, higher acid levels are fatal to coral and more difficult for organisms like clams and oysters to build their shells.
The study threw an interesting and surprising light on the connection between acidification and a natural warming and cooling cycle called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.
The scientists pointed out that with the increased amount of ocean acidification due to human-caused CO2 emissions, this natural variation also plays an important role in alleviating or amplifying the trend.
“During the cool phases of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, strengthened winds across the ocean drive carbon dioxide-rich waters upward toward the surface along the West Coast of the U.S.,” said lead author Emily Osborne in a press statement. “It’s like a double whammy, increasing ocean acidification in this region of the world.”
The study’s findings could have major impacts on the management of some of the most economically valuable fisheries in the country like California crab and shellfish fisheries, the scientists said.