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Executive Summary for July 14th

Our weekly roundup reviews ocean news, as scientists predict hundreds of U.S. cities face flooding in the coming decades, new species of fungi are discovered in deep-sea reefs and environmentalists sue the Trump administration to protect whales and sea turtles.

Published on July 14, 2017 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Underwater Cities

A new peer-reviewed study predicts that about 170 coastal communities in the United States will face chronic flooding by 2035 as a result of rising sea levels related to climate change.

A quarter of the land in more than 100 of those communities would be continuously flooded, according to research conducted by the Union for Concerned Scientists.

By 2060, that number will rise to about 270 communities provided carbon emissions peak by mid-century and sea levels rise by 4ft (1.2m). If emissions continue to rise and sea levels increase by 6.5ft (2m), 360 communities will be chronically inundated with half the land in 40 percent of those cities flooded.

At the turn of the century, the number of communities flooded under those scenarios increases to almost 490 and nearly 670, respectively. That means 60 percent of oceanfront communities on the east and Gulf coasts of the U.S. would be chronically flooded, stated the study, published in the journal Elementa on Wednesday.

The researchers used tide gauge data and projections of rising sea levels from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to estimate the flooding risks.

“These results show that, in the absence of measures to manage increased flooding, effective inundation of coastal communities could become widespread within the next 40 years and encompass much of the coast by the end of the century,” the researchers wrote. “The growth of effective inundation suggests that communities will face stark choices about their ways of life in the decades to come.”

Hundreds of New Fungi Found in Deep-Sea Coral Reef

Scientists at the University of Hawaii at Manoa have discovered scores of new species of fungi on a deep-sea coral reef off the coast of Maui.

Such mesophotic coral reef systems lie in the dim depths 130–500ft (40–150m) below the surface of the ocean and have barely been explored. Scientists believe these twilight zone reefs may become an increasingly important refuge for marine life as warming ocean temperatures reduce shallow-water coral ecosystems.

In a paper published Tuesday in the journal PeerJ, the researchers said they found potentially hundreds of new fungi species after sequencing the DNA of specimens collected from algae living on a coral reef ecosystem in the Au’au Channel off the west coast of Maui. “Mesophotic coral ecosystems are an almost entirely unexplored and undocumented environment that likely contains vast reservoirs of undescribed biodiversity,” wrote the scientists.

Such fungi potentially could be valuable. Terrestrial fungi, for instance, are used to make the cancer treatment Taxol.

Whales and Sea Turtles Get a Lawyer

The environmental group Oceana is suing the Trump administration over its withdrawal of a proposed rule that would have helped reduce the number of endangered whales and sea turtles killed by gill nets off California.

The nets are designed to catch swordfish but whales and sea turtles can drown after becoming entangled in the fishing gear. “Between 2001 and 2015, the fishery caught 754 dolphins, 507 seals and sea lions, 112 seabirds, 53 whales and 35 sea turtles,” according to the suit filed in U.S. federal court in California.

A regulation approved by the Pacific Fishery Management Council in 2015 would have imposed limits on the annual bycatch of five species of whales and four species of sea turtles. If that cap was exceeded for any one species, the government could close the fishery for up to two years.

The Trump administration withdrew the regulation on June 12, a move Oceana argues was capricious and an abuse of discretion.

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