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Analysis and Comment (58)

Rubbish strewn on beaches eventually ends up in one of the world’s giant ocean garbage patches. Rubbish strewn on beaches eventually ends up in one of the world’s giant ocean garbage patches. Vberger/Wikimedia Commons

Redrawing the map could reveal ocean garbage patch culprits

Most of us have littered at one time or another, and in the process we probably contributed to the enormous of amounts of plastic that enter the ocean every year, eventually ending up in one of the five…
A South Korean destroyer deploys to Somali waters to tackle piracy there. A South Korean destroyer deploys to Somali waters to tackle piracy there. EPA/Yonhap

Why fighting pirates in African waters is crucial to our security

When we sip our morning coffee or snack on a piece of chocolate, we hardly think about how these products came to us. The answer is: they were transported by sea. In fact, pretty much all the goods we…
What would you pull out of the water if you knew you were watched? What would you pull out of the water if you knew you were watched? Dirk.heldmaier

Track boats with GPS to stop illegal fishers draining the seas

The ocean, seen from a beach or from a plane, seems vast, ancient and invulnerable. It’s hard to imagine that 90% of life on earth lives below the waves, across 1.3 billion cubic kilometres of water and…
Drought conditions are set to become more frequent with the changing behaviour of the Indian Ocean. Drought conditions are set to become more frequent with the changing behaviour of the Indian Ocean. Peripitus/Wikimedia Commons

Drought in store as El Niño’s western cousin to grow stronger

Over the past few months, a lot of attention has been paid to the potentially strong El Niño event brewing in the Pacific Ocean. But there is also the potential for an emerging climate phenomenon in the…
Global shipping is expected to triple by 2060. Global shipping is expected to triple by 2060. Let Ideas Compete/Flickr

We need a global conservation agreement for the high seas

The high seas cover about 50% of Earth’s surface and host a major share of the world’s biodiversity, but remain largely ungoverned. With increasing threats to open ocean ecosystems, now more than ever…
The ocean is all stirred up with what we’re doing to it. The ocean is all stirred up with what we’re doing to it. NASA

The ocean is not just huge, but also hugely important

Carl Sagan’s description of our planet as a “pale blue dot” captured two important elements about the Earth: its loneliness in the enormity of space, and the ocean’s overwhelming dominance of the planet…
Rousing the Kraken: climate change could make life in the ocean much harder. Rousing the Kraken: climate change could make life in the ocean much harder. By Mary Evans Picture Library/Alamy/Wikimedia Commons

IPCC preview: deep trouble brewing in our oceans

Scientists are meeting this week in Yokohama, Japan, to finalise and approve the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Working Group II – the part of the IPCC process that…
Step away from the fish, with your beak in the air. Step away from the fish, with your beak in the air. Reemul

Marine conservation efforts are failing to take five key steps

Some of the world’s most vulnerable marine habitats are being failed by the conservation orders put in place to protect them. As the Environmental Audit Committee meets to discuss how it will implement…
Much of Australia’s waste plastic is ending up in the ocean, and in fish. Much of Australia’s waste plastic is ending up in the ocean, and in fish. John Schneider

Australian waters polluted by harmful tiny plastics

Each square kilometre of Australian sea surface water is contaminated by around 4,000 pieces of tiny plastics, according to our study published today in journal PLOS ONE and data repository Figshare. These…
A tide of tsunami debris is heading across the ocean - that doesn’t mean the ocean is broken. A tide of tsunami debris is heading across the ocean - that doesn’t mean the ocean is broken. US Navy

The ocean is not broken, but consumer behaviour is

In an emotional article making waves on social media at the moment, yachtsman Ivan Macfadyen reports seeing no marine life at sea, only floating rubbish, while sailing across the Pacific. He concludes…
It’s loud out there! We’re just beginning to understand how our noise affects whales' ears. It’s loud out there! We’re just beginning to understand how our noise affects whales' ears. Sam Scholes

Too much noise in the ocean for whales' sensitive ears

We might only notice whales when they appear in our world, but beyond the scopes of whale watchers, whales and dolphins live rich - and noisy - lives. In fact scientists are only just beginning to understand…
These blue-green algae - cyanobacteria - would be the only winners from a warming ocean. These blue-green algae - cyanobacteria - would be the only winners from a warming ocean. Joydeep

If warming oceans leave algae hungry, we’ll go hungry too

Global warming is having a significant impact on marine life, as many marine organisms are adapted to live only within the average temperature range of their habitats. This applies to larger fish and sea…
As ocean cooling reverses, the planet will begin warming once more. As ocean cooling reverses, the planet will begin warming once more. Michael Seljos

Warming slowed by cooling Pacific Ocean

The cooling of eastern Pacific Ocean waters has been counteracting the warming effect of greenhouse gases. Our research, released today in Nature, shows this natural variability in ocean cycles is responsible…
Just how much bigger can they get? Just how much bigger can they get? Chris Radburn/PA

Designing green ships, from sails to micro-bubbles

Maritime engineering is no exception in worldwide effort to save energy and protect the environment. In 2008 the International Maritime Organization, a UN agency, set up its Marine Environmental Protection…
Best served chilled: Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) Best served chilled: Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) Uwe Kils/BAS

A view to a krill: warming seas may leave predators hungry

Although it is far from the power stations, roads and flight paths of the populated world, the Southern Ocean is already responding to climate change. Average sea temperatures in some parts have risen…
This eastern shovelnose stingaree was once unheard of in northern Tasmania. Now it is abundant. This eastern shovelnose stingaree was once unheard of in northern Tasmania. Now it is abundant. Peter Last

Marine life spawns sooner as our oceans warm

Warming oceans are affecting the breeding patterns and habitat of marine life, according to a three-year international study published today in Nature Climate Change. This is effectively re-arranging the…
Coral are among the sea organisms susceptible to small changes in acidity. Coral are among the sea organisms susceptible to small changes in acidity. NOAA/David Burdick

Ocean acidification is chemistry, not conjecture

As a scientist working on the impact of climate change on marine ecosystems, one of my duties is to communicate my work. My main goal is to convince students, citizens, economists and politicians that…
Chagos: more marine life than practically anywhere else, and Captain Bird’s Eye is getting his hands on none of it. Chagos: more marine life than practically anywhere else, and Captain Bird’s Eye is getting his hands on none of it. Anne Sheppard/Chagos Trust

The Chagos Islands are unique and worth protecting

The Chagos Islands marine protected area is the largest of its kind in the world, encircling the dozens of tiny islands of the Chagos archipelago that lie in thousands of miles of Indian Ocean between…
What’s out there? We know next to nothing about the amazing chemistry and compounds produced in the deep sea. What’s out there? We know next to nothing about the amazing chemistry and compounds produced in the deep sea. Tim Donnelly

Sea of miracles: industrial uses for ocean biodiversity

The seafloor is our planet’s most biodiverse realm. It is in the sea that life on earth began over 3.5 billion years ago. It is in the sea where 34 of the 36 known phyla of animals remain to this day…
Ocean power can be harnessed for electricity generation using both wave energy and the tide. Ocean power can be harnessed for electricity generation using both wave energy and the tide. Scottish Government

Explainer: what is ocean energy?

Renewable ocean energy harnesses the power of the oceans to produce electricity. This can be done in several ways, but the resources that have the most immediate potential in terms of energy production…
Great ocean garbage patches should be left alone until plastics are stopped from entering our oceans. Great ocean garbage patches should be left alone until plastics are stopped from entering our oceans. Flickr/CesarHarada

Leave the ocean garbage alone: we need to stop polluting first

Recent plans to clean plastics from the five massive ocean garbage patches could do more damage to the environment than leaving the plastic right where it is. There is no doubt that the focus on cleaning…
Despite the cold, high pressure and lack of light, the deep sea is an incredibly rich ecosystem. Despite the cold, high pressure and lack of light, the deep sea is an incredibly rich ecosystem. AAP Image/Queensland Brain Institute

Final frontiers: the deep sea

With the global population now well over seven billion people there are few remaining parts of the world relatively untouched by human activity. We assess the current state and future prospects of five…
It seems Architeuthis dux is the only species of giant squid. It seems Architeuthis dux is the only species of giant squid. NHK/NEP/Discovery Channel

There can be only one: giant squid is the singular king of the ocean

As many as 21 species of giant squid live and die under the surface of our oceans. At least, that’s what we thought. A paper published today by my colleagues and I in Proceedings of the Royal Society B…
Plastic is a major threat to our seabirds and marine life - this bird has filled its stomach with plastic during the 80-90 days it lived. Plastic is a major threat to our seabirds and marine life - this bird has filled its stomach with plastic during the 80-90 days it lived. Ian Hutton

Plastic and politics: how bureaucracy is failing our forgotten wildlife

Seabirds: the poster children for ocean health. Fishers use them to identify fishing hot spots. Environmental and marine scientists use them as indicators of the condition of the ocean environment due…
Recent research shows an acidifying ocean is more damaging to coral than we’d hoped. Recent research shows an acidifying ocean is more damaging to coral than we’d hoped. Community Eye Health

Jumps in ocean acidity put coral in more peril

Ocean acidification - where the ocean becomes less alkaline as it absorbs excess CO2 from the atmosphere - has been described as the evil twin of global warming. Yet, remarkably, it is only over the past…
Fisheries around the world are depleted, but they can be saved. Fisheries around the world are depleted, but they can be saved. Isaac Pearlman

It is still possible to make fisheries sustainable

Many fisheries around the world are in bad shape and getting worse. Solving this problem will require innovative monitoring and management tools, but we can provide tremendous benefits if we act now to…
Understanding the stingray’s significance can help us understand opposition to James Price Point gas plans. Understanding the stingray’s significance can help us understand opposition to James Price Point gas plans. Joy VanBuhler

Beware the stingray: Indigenous heritage and WA’s gas plans

For overwhelming economic, social, cultural and environmental reasons the LNG precinct proposed for Walmadany (James Price Point) should not be built…In sum, such a project is against the national interest…
Killing starfish one by one is no long-term solution. Killing starfish one by one is no long-term solution. Paul Cizek

Crown of Thorns is a symptom of reef decline: let’s address the cause

A recent report on coral loss from the Great Barrier Reef has pointed the finger at cyclones and Crown of Thorns starfish. The real culprit is human activity, and until we reduce port activity and pollution…
The Great Barrier Reef may be huge and long-lived, but without intervention it’s in serious trouble. The Great Barrier Reef may be huge and long-lived, but without intervention it’s in serious trouble. Landfeldt/Flickr

The decay of the Great Barrier Reef calls for a reckoning

There is a myth about Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, that goes like this: because it is so big, biodiverse, so well-managed and generally bloody awesome, the GBR is immune to climate change and other…
Could waves and ocean currents hold a key to a renewable energy future? Could waves and ocean currents hold a key to a renewable energy future? Sunova Surfboards

Ocean power making waves in Australia’s clean energy future

CSIRO recently announced that energy from the ocean could supply 11% of Australia’s demand by 2050. That is enough to power a city the size of Melbourne. It is a bold claim, but it’s time for Australia…
We thought we’d set a safe limit on climate change - 450ppm CO2 - but it may be too high for most of the world’s reefs. We thought we’d set a safe limit on climate change - 450ppm CO2 - but it may be too high for most of the world’s reefs. Paul Toogood

Climate change guardrail too hot for coral reefs?

One of the ambitions of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is galvanising the international community to avoid dangerous interference with Earth’s climate. To do this, it…
Microbial abundances in the sub-seafloor environment are much more variable than thought. Microbial abundances in the sub-seafloor environment are much more variable than thought. giveawayboy

Drastic measures: a revised estimate of Earth’s microbes

A paper released today in the journal PNAS provides a new estimate of microbial abundance, in light of new information, from the sub-seafloor realm (the so-called “deep biosphere”). As such, we now have…
The shrimp Lebbeus clarehanna is a new species collected at about 400 metres depth - it’s species like this new marine reserves will protect. The shrimp Lebbeus clarehanna is a new species collected at about 400 metres depth - it’s species like this new marine reserves will protect. CSIRO

Marine reserves not about closing fisheries, but about preserving ocean health

Recently, members of the fishing industry staged a protest about Australia’s new network of marine parks. But when Environment Minister Tony Burke announced the parks on July 11 2012, he noted the reserves…
Coral species Acropora monticulosa is becoming more abundant at the Solitary Islands in northern NSW. Coral species Acropora monticulosa is becoming more abundant at the Solitary Islands in northern NSW.

On the move: corals migrate south into NSW’s warming waters

The east coast of Australia is a global hotspot for the effects of climate change, especially in the marine realm, where average water temperatures have increased by almost half a degree over the last…
What does it matter how much rain falls on the ocean? For understanding climate, it matters quite a lot. What does it matter how much rain falls on the ocean? For understanding climate, it matters quite a lot. Ines Hegedus-Garcia

Are the world’s wet regions becoming wetter and dry regions becoming drier?

Surprising evidence from the oceans suggests they are responding to warming at a faster rate than we previously thought. These changes are expressed by patterns of freshening and enhanced salinity in the…
We’re just coming to grips with Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation, one of the many climate modes that cause Australia’s wide and wonderful range of climate variability. We’re just coming to grips with Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation, one of the many climate modes that cause Australia’s wide and wonderful range of climate variability. mattharvey1/Flickr

Decade to decade changes in our climate – what’s really going on?

While most people now understand that the enhanced greenhouse effect means a much warmer planet, communicating regional shifts in weather remains a significant challenge. As with most complex science…
Cameron’s voyage was a source of genuine wonder … so why the sinking feeling? Cameron’s voyage was a source of genuine wonder … so why the sinking feeling? Mark Thiessen/EPA

James Cameron and the Mariana Trench sparks titanic angst

Today as I ate lunch, Titanic, Terminator and Avatar director James Cameron was at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the deepest point in the ocean. We know this for a couple of reasons. Not only did he…
Warmer temperatures mean more female than male turtles, but it’s not all good news for the guys. Warmer temperatures mean more female than male turtles, but it’s not all good news for the guys. Dave Scriven

Bachelor’s paradise: how will sea turtles cope with climate change?

Many species have dubious futures in the face of climate change. But sea turtles have a particularly pressing problem: their sex is determined by temperature. Australia has ecologically and culturally…
How many jellyfish are there really? How many jellyfish are there really? ImipolexG/Flickr

Humans cause ocean-wrecking jellyfish plague! Or maybe not …

It seems that every day you read in the scientific literature and global media about the human destruction of our oceans, through impacts such as climate change, eutrophication, overfishing and urban sprawling…
The wrecking of the MV Tycoon happened just as Christmas Island’s famous crabs began spawning. The wrecking of the MV Tycoon happened just as Christmas Island’s famous crabs began spawning. Justin Gilligan

Christmas Island oil spill: time to value natural treasures, not just trade

Christmas Island has been once again in the headlines: not because of incidents involving asylum-seekers, but because of the recent sinking and breaking up of the Panamanian phosphate carrier MC Tycoon…
It takes just two generations to adapt to warmer ocean temperatures. It takes just two generations to adapt to warmer ocean temperatures. Jennifer Donelson

The oceans are getting warmer, but tropical reef fish could acclimate

The average temperature of the oceans has already increased significantly due to global warming and will continue to warm rapidly in coming decades. If we are going to effectively manage and conserve fish…
Stromatolites are among the most ancient records of life on earth. Stromatolites are among the most ancient records of life on earth. Ellie Gee

Shark Bay stromatolites at risk from climate change

Climate change – resulting in more frequent flooding of the Wooramel River that leads into Shark Bay – may threaten the unique stromatolites that make Shark Bay a World Heritage site. These stromatolites…
Coral bleaching is a serious issue, but we’re learning how reefs can best recover. Coral bleaching is a serious issue, but we’re learning how reefs can best recover. AFP/Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

Back from the bleach – how isolation helps coral reefs recover

Coral reefs around the world are under pressure from multiple threats. A burgeoning gas industry – such as that near Gladstone – is one of the newest of these. Pollution, sedimentation, declining water…
Culling sharks is unlikely to make our beaches safer. Culling sharks is unlikely to make our beaches safer. Hermanus Backpackers

Cull or be killed: is this really the solution to stop shark attacks?

In Western Australia, politicians and members of the public are calling for a shark cull in response to the state’s recent shark attack fatalities. The most recent of these attacks was on a diver off the…
Shark nets have been proven to hurt sharks, but does that help humans? Shark nets have been proven to hurt sharks, but does that help humans? AAP

The untold story of shark nets in Australia

Western Australia’s Cottesloe Beach has been closed due to concerns a swimmer there was taken by a great white shark. The public is understandably worried, but the local mayor says no shark nets will be…
Oil gets into the ocean in all sorts of ways, but oil spills are the most visible. Oil gets into the ocean in all sorts of ways, but oil spills are the most visible. AAP

How can we clean up the Bay of Plenty oil spill?

Responding to oil spills, like that in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty, is a very complex, high pressure situation. Decisions must be made based on whatever data are available at the time. One of the difficulties…
Why deplete a country’s mineral resources when its natural capital is worth so much more? Why deplete a country’s mineral resources when its natural capital is worth so much more? Muhammad Erdi Lazuardi

Raja Ampat: why reefs are worth more money than mines

“Natural capital” is the resources in nature’s bank. Nature’s capital is not evenly spread across the world: some areas are “richer” than others. Raja Ampat in Papua is one of the richest. Currently under…
Southern bluefin tuna are critically endangered, but the fishing industry wants to catch more. Southern bluefin tuna are critically endangered, but the fishing industry wants to catch more. AAP

Tuna or not tuna? The real cost of taking a fish out of water

The Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna is meeting today to discuss raising Australia’s tuna fishing quota. The tuna industry is expected to ask for a 30% rise in Australia’s allocated…
Seals, turtles, sharks and dolphins are killed by abandoned fishing nets. Seals, turtles, sharks and dolphins are killed by abandoned fishing nets. tedxgp/Flickr

Marine debris: biodiversity impacts and potential solutions

Pollution from human activities has major impact on the world’s marine ecosystems. Plastic refuse is one of the most pervasive types of pollution. More than 80 million tons of plastics are estimated to…
It will take more than science to save the last tuna from becoming sashimi. It will take more than science to save the last tuna from becoming sashimi. x v r/Flickr

Saving tuna from overfishing means playing politics

Fisheries provide animal protein for much of the world’s population, and provide livelihoods for the millions of people who work in fishing industries. But overfishing, in conjunction with other human…
Simple seagrass can answer some complex climate problems. Simple seagrass can answer some complex climate problems. Joanne Saad

Our home is girt by sea; our land abounds in nature’s carbon sinks

Reducing carbon emissions is necessary, but what about the carbon that has already been released into the atmosphere? Many countries are turning to “biosequestration” for the answers: using nature - including…
Ocean acidification is most acute in the polar regions. Ocean acidification is most acute in the polar regions. Enzofloyd/flickr

Explainer: why ocean acidification is the ‘evil twin’ of climate change

Ocean acidification is often referred to as the “evil twin” of climate change. Greenhouse gasses are doing more than just warming the globe. Increasing C0₂ levels are also changing the chemical make-up…
Marine parks are an evidence-based way to stop trashing ocean environments. Marine parks are an evidence-based way to stop trashing ocean environments. Urban Woodswalker/flickr

Why are we so reluctant to protect marine species from extinction?

Given the growing evidence of catastrophic extinctions in the world’s oceans due to climate change and overfishing (see, for example, the recent IPSO report) one would expect a groundswell of demand for…
What has your ocean done for you recently? Lots, actually. What has your ocean done for you recently? Lots, actually. AAP

Do we value our oceans?

Whether it’s sailing across turquoise waters, admiring a sea view or being able to pop a shrimp on the barbie, on World Oceans Day it is fitting to reflect on how most people derive some benefit from our…
The availability of oil has led to changes in Arctic governance. The availability of oil has led to changes in Arctic governance. AAP

Carving up the Arctic: how the rule of law could save the poles

Recent Wikileaks cables detailing diplomatic jostling over the Arctic region only confirm how hotly contested it has become. There are three principal reasons for this tension: -The dynamic created by…

Research and News (11)

Research Briefs (83)

Many marine species remain unknown

There are 226,000 described marine species in the world but research suggests more than 450,000 remain unknown. Using knowledge…

Finding where fish are most at risk

Researchers have developed a way to identify conservation hotspots in the world oceans. These are areas where overfishing…

Satellites map shrinking ice sheets

Ice caps and glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica shed 150 billion tons of ice annually from 2003 to 2010 according to the…

Fast ocean currents lead to faster days

Powerful currents around Antarctica caused the earth to spin slightly faster in November 2009 - by about 0.1 milliseconds…

Worldwide ocean acidity measured

Researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara have completed a worldwide study of ocean acidification, or…

Degrees of salinity shot from space

The first global map of the salinity of the ocean surface has been produced by NASA’s new Aquarius instrument. The map shows…

Oceans can hide global warming for a decade

Computer simulations of global climate have shown that the planet’s oceans can mask the presence of global warming for as…

Viruses make up masses of ocean life

Viruses fill the ocean and have a significant effect on ocean biology, specifically marine microbiology, according to new…

Volcano eruption was predicted

Scientists have successfully predicted the eruption of undersea volcano, Axial Seamount. Bill Chadwick, Orgeon State University…

Ocean acidity taking toll on mussels

Ocean acidity has increased by around a third since the 18th century. This has resulted in the weakening of California mussel…

Satellites offer help for kelp

Scientists have developed new methods for studying how environmental factors and climate affect giant kelp forest ecosystems…