Mystery solved: ocean acidity in the last mass extinction | YaleNews

Heterohelix globulosa fossils
A species of foraminifera called Heterohelix globulosa that were picked and isolated from the K-Pg boundary clay at Geulhemmerberg in the Netherlands. Each fossil measures between 150 and 212 microns.

“A new study led by Yale University confirms a long-held theory about the last great mass extinction event in history and how it affected Earth’s oceans. The findings may also answer questions about how marine life eventually recovered.

The researchers say it is the first direct evidence that the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event 66 million years ago coincided with a sharp drop in the pH levels of the oceans — which indicates a rise in ocean acidity.

The study appears in the online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The Cretaceous-Paleogene die-off, also known as the K-Pg mass extinction event, occurred when a meteor slammed into Earth at the end of the Cretaceous period. The impact and its aftereffects killed roughly 75% of the animal and plant species on the planet, including whole groups like the non-avian dinosaurs and ammonites.

For years, people suggested there would have been a decrease in ocean pH because the meteor impact hit sulphur-rich rocks and caused the raining-out of sulphuric acid, but until now no one had any direct evidence to show this happened,” said lead author Michael Henehan, a former Yale scientist who is now at GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam, Germany.

Turns out all they had to do was look at the foraminifera.

Pincelli Hull standing next to researcher Michael Henehan, who is looking into a microscope.
Pincelli Hull, assistant professor of geology and geophysics, standing next to researcher Michael Henehan, who is looking into a microscope.

Foraminifera are tiny plankton that grow a calcite shell and have an amazingly complete fossil record going back hundreds of millions of years. Analysis of the chemical composition of foraminifera fossils from before, during, and after the K-Pg event produced a wealth of data about changes in the marine environment over time. Specifically, measurements of boron isotopes in these shells allowed the Yale scientists to detect changes in the ocean’s acidity.”

Source: Mystery solved: ocean acidity in the last mass extinction | YaleNews

David Lindsay
Excess Carbon Dioxide is causing the oceans to acidify in the last 200 years or so, to the point that half of the Great Barrier Reef, is dead. Coral reefs are dying all over the world. This science shows that ocean acidity in the past led to a great die off of aquatic species during the 5th great extinction 66 million years ago.

Great Barrier Reef – Wikipedia

from Wikipedia:

“The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system[1][2] composed of over 2,900 individual reefs[3] and 900 islands stretching for over 2,300 kilometres (1,400 mi) over an area of approximately 344,400 square kilometres (133,000 sq mi).[4][5] The reef is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of QueenslandAustralia. The Great Barrier Reef can be seen from outer space and is the world’s biggest single structure made by living organisms.[6] This reef structure is composed of and built by billions of tiny organisms, known as coral polyps.[7] It supports a wide diversity of life and was selected as a World Heritage Site in 1981.[1][2] CNN labelled it one of the seven natural wonders of the world.[8] The Queensland National Trust named it a state icon of Queensland.[9]

A large part of the reef is protected by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which helps to limit the impact of human use, such as fishing and tourism. Other environmental pressures on the reef and its ecosystem include runoffclimate change accompanied by mass coral bleaching, dumping of dredging sludge and cyclic population outbreaks of the crown-of-thorns starfish.[10] According to a study published in October 2012 by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the reef has lost more than half its coral cover since 1985.[11]”

Source: Great Barrier Reef – Wikipedia

This Carnivorous Plant Invaded New York. That May Be Its Only Hope. – The New York Times

By 

“Across their kayaks, the three men passed the green shoot back and forth. Occasionally, one of them would cradle it in one palm and bring a hand lens to it with the other, inspecting the carnivorous plant that was their bounty.

By day’s end, the group — Seth Cunningham and Michael Tessler, biologists at the American Museum of Natural History, and John Thompson, coordinator of the Catskill Regional Invasive Species Partnership — filled eight vials with the plant, Aldrovanda vesiculosa, also known as the waterwheel.

The plant shouldn’t be in this small, privately owned pond in Orange County, N.Y., and it presents an ecological conundrum.

Around the world, the waterwheel is going extinct. But from summer through late fall, the carnivorous, rootless, wetland-loving plant is plentiful in this swampy body of water near the Catskill Mountains.”

In Zimbabwe the Water Taps Run Dry and Worsen ‘a Nightmare’ – The New York Times

By Patrick Kingsley and 

HARARE, Zimbabwe — It had been five days since water had stopped flowing out of the taps at Eneres Kaitano’s bungalow in southern Harare, Zimbabwe’s modern and tidy capital city. Five days since she had done any laundry. Five days since she had forbidden her children from using the toilet more than once a day.

On the sixth day, she again rose at 3 a.m. to fetch water from a communal borehole. By the early afternoon, she was still waiting her turn at the tap with her six buckets and cans.

Much of the city had the same idea. More than half of the 4.5 million residents of Harare’s greater metropolitan area now have running water only once a week, according to the city’s mayor, forcing them to wait in lines at communal wells, streams and boreholes.

“It is causing us serious problems,” said Ms. Kaitano, a 29-year-old jeans wholesaler who was down to her last clean outfit last week. “We have to stop ourselves from going to the toilet.”

As the World Heats Up the Climate for News Is Changing, Too – By Marc Tracy – The New York Times

“As Europe heats up, Greenland melts and the Midwest floods, many news organizations are devoting more resources to climate change as they cover the topic with more urgency.

In Florida, six newsrooms with different owners have taken the unusual step of pooling their resources and sharing their reporting on the issue. They plan to examine how climate change will affect the state’s enormous agriculture sector as well as “the future of coastal towns and cities — which ones survive, which ones go under,” according to a statement released when the initiative was announced last month.

Florida’s record-breaking heat wavesdevastating storms like Hurricane Michael and increased flooding at high tide have not been lost on Mindy Marques, the publisher and executive editor of The Miami Herald, one of the six organizations taking part in the effort.

“It’s undeniable that we are living with the impact of changes in our climate every day,” Ms. Marques said.”

Opinion | Surviving Despair in the Great Extinction – By Margaret Renkl – The New York Times

“. . .  Last week, the United Nations released the summary of an enormous report that broke my heart in more ways than any backyard-nature observations ever have. The Times article about the report, “Humans Are Speeding Extinction and Altering the Natural World at an ‘Unprecedented’ Pace,” called it “the most exhaustive look yet at the decline in biodiversity across the globe and the dangers that creates for human civilization.” The story opens with the picture of an olive ridley sea turtle washed up on an Indian beach. The turtle is dead, apparently strangled: Fishing rope is looped around its neck, cutting into its throat.

Image.

Fishing nets and ropes are a deadly hazard for olive ridley sea turtles.CreditSoren Andersson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

If the photo is traumatizing, the story is worse. Because of human activity — both direct activity, like fishing and farming, and indirect activity, like the fossil fuels that accelerate climate change — up to one million species of plants and animals are headed for extinction if we don’t take immediate measures to halt the devastation.

That’s one million species. Every individual creature in a species — times one million. We can’t possibly conceive of such a thing. We can hold in mind, however uncomfortably, the image of a single animal who died a terrible death. Devastation on this scale is beyond the reach of imagination. How could we hold in mind a destruction so vast it would take not just one sea turtle but all that animal’s kind, as well as all the kind of 999,999 other species?

Whole expanses of the natural world are disappearing. It’s not just poster animals like polar bears, tigers and elephants; it’s life on earth as we know it.”

David Lindsay:

Thank you Margaret Renkl.  Here is one of several comments I admired. In this one, it is the quote of the Talmud that I value most.

Susan
Delaware, OH

In his iconic essay, The Starthrower, Loren Eiseley gives us reason to keep up the fight against impossible odds. Eiseley describes going to Costabel Spain and sees a figure on the beach repeatedly picking up starfish stranded on the beach by the receding tide and throwing them back into the water that they might live. The cynical Eiseley tries to explain to the starthrower that his task is hopeless. There are too many starfish to make a difference. But the starthrower proclaims “It makes a difference to this one.” as he returns it to the mother sea. In that moment, Eiseley realizes that it wasn’t starfish so much as men the thrower sought to save and there was something holy about reaching out a hand in pity across the gulf of evolution that separates mankind and starfish. The Talmud says: Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly now. Love mercy now. Walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work but neither are you free to abandon it. Ms. Renkl’s essay is a good down payment on the task.

10 Replies306 Recommended

Opinion | Life as We Know It – The New York Times Editorial

By The Editorial Board

The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

CreditIllustrations by Yann Kebbi

“Our planet has suffered five mass extinctions, the last of which occurred about 66 million years ago, when a giant asteroid believed to have landed near the Yucatán Peninsula set off a chain reaction that wiped out the dinosaurs and roughly three-quarters of the other species on earth. A few years ago, in a book called “The Sixth Extinction,” the writer Elizabeth Kolbert warned of a devastating sequel, with plant and animal species on land and sea already disappearing at a ferocious clip, their habitats destroyed or diminished by human activities.

This time, she made clear, the asteroid is us — and we will pay heavily for our folly.

Humanity’s culpability in what many scientists believe to be a planetary emergency has now been reaffirmed by a detailed and depressing report compiled by hundreds of international experts and based on thousands of scientific studies. A summary was released last Monday in Paris, and the full 1,500-page report will be available later in the year. Its findings are grim. “Biodiversity” — a word encompassing all living flora and fauna — “is declining faster than at any time in human history,” it says, estimating that “around 1 million species already face extinction, many within decades,” unless the world takes transformative action to save natural systems. The at-risk population includes a half-million land-based species and one-third of marine mammals and corals.

Most of the causes of this carnage seem familiar: logging, poaching, overfishing by large industrial fleets, pollution, invasive species, the spread of roads and cities to accommodate an exploding global population, now seven billion and rising. If there is one alpha culprit, it is the clearing of forests and wetlands for farms to feed all those people (and, perversely, to help them get to work: The destruction of Indonesia’s valuable rain forests, and their replacement with palm oil plantations, has been driven in part by Europe’s boundless appetite for biodiesel fuels.)

Add to all this a relatively new threat: Global warming, driven largely by the burning of fossil fuels, is expected to compound the damage. “While climate change has not been the dominant driver of biodiversity loss to date in most parts of the world, it is projected to become as or more important,” said Sir Robert Watson, chairman of the biodiversity panel and former chairman of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, whose most recent alarming report on global warming has given that issue new currency in American politics. Rising seas and increased extreme weather events propelled in part by climate change — fire, floods, droughts — have already harmed many species. The most obvious victim is the world’s coral reefs, which have suffered grievously from ocean waters that have grown warmer and more acidic as a result of all the carbon dioxide they’ve been asked to absorb.”

Extinction threatens one million species because of humans’ warns UN report – CNN

(CNN)One million of the planet’s eight million species are threatened with extinction by humans, scientists warned Monday in what is described as the most comprehensive assessment of global nature loss ever.

Their landmark report paints a bleak picture of a planet ravaged by an ever-growing human population, whose insatiable consumption is destroying the natural world.
The global rate of species extinction “is already tens to hundreds of times higher than it has been, on average, over the last 10 million years,” according to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), a UN committee, whose report was written by 145 experts from 50 countries.

Source: Extinction threatens one million species because of humans’ warns UN report – CNN

Watching ‘Our Planet,’ Where the Predator Is Us – The New York Times

“One of the hallmarks of a past generation’s nature documentaries was the animal-in-peril scene: the cub hunted by the jungle cat, the fledgling teetering at the edge of its nest.

It was like the terror of a thrill-park ride, one that usually came with the implicit knowledge of safeguards and constraints. In the end, the adorable creature would survive. This was the compact. The animal that you liked would be O.K. After all, this was TV.

There is one of those scenes in the second episode of “Our Planet,” the remarkable docu-series on Netflix. But now the compact is gone. A teeming colony of walruses is crammed at the edge of eighty-meter cliffs along the coast of Russia, where climate change has melted away the sea ice. Not evolved to navigating the precarious surfaces, one walrus falls, and another, and another, their massive bodies slamming onto the rocky beach.

They do not, most of them, get up and shake it off. Their broken bodies litter the shore. This is the resounding message of “Our Planet”: It will not, necessarily, be O.K. And humans — the unpictured but omnipresent part of “our” in “Our Planet” — are the reason.”

Our Planet review – Attenborough’s first act as an eco-warrior | Television & radio | The Guardian

David Lindsay:  This March and April. Kathleen Schomaker and I performed our new Folk Concert: Climate Change and the Sixth Extinction, in three different house concerts, to share our work and get feedback.
   Our efforts at educating neighbors and friends were somewhat eclipsed by this eight show series about the environment, called, Our Planet, produced and served up by Netflix. I urge everyone to view these shows.
Here is a review from The Guardian.
Spectacular ... A dust storm blows over a colony of socotra cormorants endangering their chicks.

“It looks as spectacular as you would expect. Vast aerial sweeps across the Peruvian coast as millions of cormorants and boobies gather to feast on anchovies and breed, or across frozen tundra to watch herds of caribou head for the shelter of the forest in temperatures 40 degrees below freezing take your breath away. Then it catches in your throat, as you watch an orchid bee, in search of perfume to attract a mate, fall into a flower’s buckety petal and squeeze out of a tiny tunnel that deposits two sacks of pollen on its back; just as God, or a million years of evolutionary adjustments, intended. On every scale, it is amazing. You can only boggle at the endless precision of the natural world, and of the people who devote themselves to capturing its wonders.

This is Netflix’s first foray into nature programming – Our Planet, an eight-part, multimillion-dollar series, filmed by more than 600 crew members over four years in 50 countries and narrated by our very own David Attenborough. Produced largely by the team behind the BBC’s Planet Earth and Blue Planet, it looks very much like what they might have done next for Auntie if the Natural History Unit had given them their druthers (and Netflix’s budget). As with Planet Earth, it takes a different landscape every episode and fills the screen with incredible scenes. Lesser flamingos building mud mounds for their eggs and hatching thousands of chicks in unison. Eagles in combat in the air. Three of the 60 species of manakin birds doing their mating dances, each more jaw-droppingly complex than the last. The routine from the blue manakin – which involves four birds who practise beforehand, with a juvenile male standing in for the prospective lady – will have you revising your own sexual decision-making. You’ll not be charmed by a pint and a compliment again, I assure you.”

Source: Our Planet review – Attenborough’s first act as an eco-warrior | Television & radio | The Guardian