In case you missed it: 3 big stories from our world

Polar bears

Polar bears from The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. (© Conservation International/photo by Russell A. Mittermeier)

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.

  1. Mining the deep ocean will soon begin

The seabed is the next frontier of mining — bringing promise for society but, potentially, peril for sea life.

The story: One of the benefits of deep-sea mining is that metals such as copper, nickel and cobalt can all be extracted from one place whereas on land, more than one metal is rarely found at each site, The Economist reported last week. Although the deep-sea isn’t home to many creatures, the ones that do live there are diverse and not well-studied, so disrupting their ecosystems could cause unknown harm.

The big picture: Experiments have shown deep-sea marine life does not easily recover from human activity because it disturbs the seabed and stirs up sediment — which especially affects filter-feeding species such as krill. The exact biological harm of deep-sea mining isn’t known, so a small-scale pilot operation is planned for April that will clear small areas of the sea floor, which future expeditions can study to see how these disturbances affect the ocean and marine life.

Read the story here. 

  1. Is warming bringing a wave of new diseases to Arctic wildlife?

Polar bears and reindeer are in danger of being replaced by non-native species because of rising Arctic temperatures.

The story: As the Arctic warms and ice melts, species such as humpback whales and white-tailed deer are making their way north, Ed Struzik reported in Yale Environment 360. Because Arctic species, such as polar bears and reindeer, have been isolated for so long, they lack immunity to diseases that other species have long been exposed to, and warmer conditions mean that diseases can survive in the environment for longer.

The big picture: An outbreak of avian cholera recently killed 56 percent of an eider — a large sea duck — population in the Hudson Bay, and the climate is to blame. “The question now is whether Arctic species can adapt to the very rapid changes that are taking place,” Steve Ferguson, a biologist with Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans said. Otherwise, grizzly bears and white-tailed deer may replace polar bears and reindeer in the Arctic.

Read the story here.


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  1. Voters rejected most ballot measures aimed at curbing climate change

Several climate-change fighting measures were on ballots November 6, but most failed to pass.

The story: Of four notable climate measures, only one passed during the primary election, Brady Dennis and Dino Grandoni reported in The Washington Post last week. Legislation against fracking in Colorado, a carbon tax in Washington state and a renewable energy measure in Arizona failed to pass, but Nevada’s climate measure was a success. The renewable energy measure, if it passes again in 2020, will mean the state must get 50 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2030.

The big picture: Since the United States government announced plans to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, many states have acted on their own to stop contributions to climate change, such as California, which has committed to be 100 percent reliant on renewably energy by 2045. But, the results of this election show that support of climate change action is still lackluster, despite news that we may experience its devastating effects sooner than previously thought.

Read the story here.

Olivia DeSmit is a staff writer for Conservation International.

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