Editor’s note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a recurring feature, Human Nature shares three stories from the past week that you should know about.
A portion of the Arctic recently melted due to global warming, opening up the area to ships. Despite the new access, the area will be off-limits to the fishing industry.
The story: Nine countries including the U.S., Russia, Canada and China signed the Central Arctic Ocean agreement, which protects an area about the size of the Mediterranean from fishing, Fiona Harvey with The Guardian reported Wednesday. Global warming is causing ice in the Arctic to melt, which means ships can now pass through previously uncrossable waters to access new fishing grounds.
The big picture: Global warming isn’t only causing ice to melt, it’s also causing fish populations to swim further north in search of cooler waters. Because of this, the Arctic will become more desirable for fishing in the near future, creating the need for agreements such as this one to protect from overfishing.
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The destruction caused by wildfires is not limited to scorching and burning — it also contaminates water sources.
The story: When fire consumes trees and plants, it releases nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, toxins including mercury and a host of other harmful substances, Ed Struzik with Yale Environment 360 reported Tuesday. Rainstorms, sometimes occurring weeks after a fire has burned out, flood these elements into water supply sources, causing rivers that were previously clear to run pitch black.
The big picture: The release of excess nutrients, metals and toxins into water sources can have effects that last years. Algae — feeding on nitrogen and phosphorus — can overtake water sources, rendering it undrinkable and killing marine life. Mercury, a toxin that can cause neurological and behavioral disorders, can make its way up the food chain and into grocery stores and markets. Following several wildfires, fish have tested positive for high levels of mercury, triggering government-issued warnings for fish consumption.
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More extreme weather events can be blamed on global warming, climate scientists say.
The story: Extreme weather events made worse by climate change are a growing concern, Somini Sengupta with The New York Times reported Friday. Raghu Murtugudde, a professor of Earth systems science at the University of Maryland, described the idea that extreme weather events are occurring more often as the “loaded dice” theory. These “dice,” he explained, keep “rolling” extreme weather events because greenhouse gases, which warm the atmosphere, are causing more moisture to be stored in the air and extremely high levels of rainfall, sometimes over short periods of time.
The big picture: Hurricane Florence, which hit the Carolinas as a tropical storm in September, caused at least 34 deaths and a minimum of US$ 38 million in damages. The destruction isn’t limited to a storm’s immediate aftermath, however: They can have long-lasting effects, including breakouts of bacterial diseases such as Leptospirosis, which infected people in Kerala, India after flooding this summer.
Read the story here.
Olivia DeSmit is a staff writer for Conservation International.
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