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Executive Summary for September 8th

In our weekly roundup, a study predicts that ocean warming in Antarctica will reduce the habitat for marine invertebrates, coral scientists call for research on reefs’ ability to withstand climate change and a billionaire finances deep-sea technology for NOAA.

Published on Sep. 8, 2017 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Warming Antarctica Bad News for Seafloor Life

study by British scientists has found that the warming ocean around Antarctica will result in a significant reduction of habitat for 79 percent of seafloor invertebrates that are unique to the region.

That is largely because there is nowhere for the marine animals to migrate as temperatures are projected to rise – the surrounding deep sea has long kept them isolated and prevents their movement to more hospitable habitats.

“How these largely endemic species will react to future projected warming is unknown,” wrote the study’s authors, members of the British Antarctic Survey.

“By considering 963 invertebrate species, we show that within the current century, warming temperatures alone are unlikely to result in wholesale extinction or invasion affecting Antarctic seafloor life.”

However, for 79 percent of them, suitable habitat will contract an average 12 percent, the scientists found.

“While a few species might thrive at least during the early decades of warming, the future for a whole range of invertebrates from starfish to corals is bleak, and there’s nowhere to swim to, nowhere to hide when you’re sitting on the bottom of the world’s coldest and most southerly ocean and it’s getting warmer by the decade,” the study’s lead author, Huw Griffiths, said in a statement.

Plea for Urgent Effort on Coral Research

A group of 22 international scientists is calling for urgent research into coral reefs threatened by climate change, saying that too little is known about their ability to adapt to rising ocean temperatures.

“There is still a lot to understand about corals,” said Gergely Torda of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University in Australia. “While our only real chance for their survival is to reverse climate change, a nugget of hope exists – that the corals may be able to adapt to their changing environment.”

In a paper published in the journal Nature Climate Change, Torda and his colleagues call for research to focus on eight areas, including stony, reef-building corals, described as the “ecosystem engineers” of tropical reef systems.

“Predicting the fate of coral reefs under climate change is subject to our understanding of the ability of corals to mount adaptive responses to environmental change,” Torda said. “The time to act is now, as the window of opportunity to save coral reefs is rapidly closing.”

Microsoft Co-founder Gives $4 Million for Deep-Ocean Floats

Billionaire Paul G. Allen has put up $4 million to finance a partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to acquire 33 Deep Argo floats to measure temperatures in the deep sea, according to Science magazine.

Deep Argo can descend to depths of 20,000ft (6,000m) and will help NOAA monitor the impact of the climate change on the deep ocean.

Designed by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California, 25 of the floats will be deployed in deep water off the coast of Brazil by the Microsoft co-founder’s ship, the Research Vessel Petrel, according to Science.

“I always say that the deep oceans are the flywheel of the climate system,” said Gregory Johnson, an oceanographer at the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle.

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