Posts Tagged "Chile"

Toxic Algal Blooms: Expert Adaptors to Climate Change

Posted by on Nov 3, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Science | 0 comments

Toxic Algal Blooms: Expert Adaptors to Climate Change

Spread the News:ShareMost people think of algae as the bothersome green stuff that grows on the tops of ponds and needs to be removed from the inside of fish tanks, but algae also provides clues about the environment. The response of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) to climate change, for example, provides evidence that some algae are extremely efficient environmental adaptors. HABs are formed when colonies of algae living in fresh or saltwater grow out of control and begin producing toxic effects that can threaten the health and lives of animals and humans. According to NOAA, they have occurred in every coastal state in the United States and are increasing in frequency due to rising temperatures associated with climate change. As a result, HAB responses to climate change, including changes in pH and CO2, have been increasingly studied. These responses include the expansion of the blooms into larger areas and an increased release of toxic poisons with warming temperatures. In a recently published paper, Mardones et al examine a special type of algal bloom found to be an expert adaptor to climate change. This strain of algal blooms called Alexandrium catenella occurs in highly variable fjord systems in southern Chile.  These Chilean fjords have had to respond to fluctuations in CO2 and pH. They experience huge freshwater inputs from Patagonian ice fields and heavy precipitation events. When dissolved in water, CO2 forms carbonic acid, which has a low pH. Therefore, levels of CO2 and pH are inversely correlated. As CO2 increases due to climate change, algal blooms in the fjords produce more Paralytic Shellfish Toxin (PST). This toxin could have long-term effects on the fish population and therefore the entire food web and ecosystem in the fjord. In an article by Pedro Costa, he describes how these neurotoxins can have a lasting impact: poisoned fish can be consumed by seals and humans, causing health issues or even death. As we expect CO2 to continue to rise, it is very likely harmful algal blooms like the ones in Chile will produce more PST, leading to more fish kills, disturbed ecosystems in the fjords, and possible human health issues. During their research, Mardones et al explored six levels of CO2/pH and two light conditions to examine how the algal blooms react. The scientists identified key differences in the waters in the fjord closest to the melting ice fields and the waters in the fjord further offshore. The near-shore water in the fjord experiences the largest impact of the freshwater inputs from the ice fields. The freshwater means that the upper layers of the water are much less salty compared to lower layers. This creates an intense halocline (stronger layers of differences in salinity) in the water column.  Strong winds in the region mix the layers, which produce highly fluctuating differences in carbonate chemistry. As Patagonian glaciers continue to melt, even more freshwater will be introduced into the fjords, which will continue to change the conditions of the water.   On the other hand, the more stable offshore waters have CO2 equilibrium with the atmosphere. The main environmental driver offshore is human-caused ocean acidification. As CO2 emissions increase in the atmosphere, it dissolves in oceans and lowers the pH of the water. For most species, this causes huge problems, but certain types of algal blooms are able to adapt to these conditions. Previous studies done by Tatter et al. show that a type of the same algal bloom from Southern California have previously changed their physiological responses due to changing pCO2/pH. Under higher CO2 conditions, production of Paralytic Shellfish Toxin increased. In 2015, there...

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Does Glacier Retreat Promote Invasive Species?

Posted by on Jun 2, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Science, Uncategorized | 1 comment

Does Glacier Retreat Promote Invasive Species?

Spread the News:ShareA recent study suggests that glacier reatreat may contribute to spread of a noxious invasive algae species in Chile. The particular species is a kind of algae, Didymosphenia geminata, commonly called “didymo.” Since this microscopic organism, a kind of planktom, forms thick dense mats that coat rocks, it is also known as “rock snot.” Vivián Montecino and her co-authors report on the spread of this species in a paper published earlier this year in the journal Science of The Total Environment. They discuss a recent bloom of this species that occurred in 13 river basins in Chile between 2010 to 2015, extending over 1800 kilometers in central and southern Chile. Didymo has been found around the world. The dense algae mats are a problem because they are unpleasant, creating problems for tourism and sport fishing. Moreover, they interfere with local ecology, since they cover rocks that are the habitat for larve of aquatic insects, disrupting aquatic food webs. Didymo is native to the northern hemisphere, but recently has extended its range to the southern hemisphere, including Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and, as this study shows, Chile. It spreads rapidly and has proved very difficult to eradicate. The researchers gathered water samples at over 300 sites between 2010 and 2015 in 13 river basins, assessing physical and chemical characteristics of the samples and checking for the presence of didymo. They found that in Chile, as in other regions, it is concentrated at site with low water temperatures and in streams that have low concentrations of phosphorus. They noted the presence in didymo in nearly all the rivers in Chile with these characteristics, suggesting that it may not continue to spread in the future. They note that didymo took a similar amount of time, about 6 years, to spread across the South Island of New Zealand, reaching its full extent in that time. The authors note that the spread of didymo to the south may be associated with glacier retreat. They comment that glacier retreat in the watershed of the Baker River is associated with increased stream flow in the summer, leading to a lowering of phosphorus concentrations which favor the species. The Baker River drains the rapidly shrinking Northern Patagonian Icefield. This research demonstrates the complex consequences of glacier retreat. It seems paradoxical that the dilution of nutrients such as phosphorus associated with increased stream flow could favor invasive species, but dense mats of rock snot that cover the rocks along stretches of the Baker River demonstrate this association. As glaciers change, the ecosystems in the rivers fed by their meltwater also change, often for the worse. Spread the...

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Activists Say Chilean Glacier Protection Law Falls Short

Posted by on May 5, 2016 in All Posts, Communities, Featured Posts, News, Policy and Economics | 0 comments

Activists Say Chilean Glacier Protection Law Falls Short

Spread the News:ShareA recent incident shows the importance of a social movement in shaping a glacier protection law in Chile. Representatives from indigenous and environmental groups testified in April that the draft law— which designates glaciers as protected areas and limits activities that can damage them— has glaring loopholes that would leave  glaciers and the people who depend on them unprotected. They urged the Commision on Human Rights and Indigenous Peoples to review the proposed law. The group, the Coordination of Territories in Defense of Glaciers, is a coalition of organizations from northern and central regions in Chile with glaciers. According to an article posted by the Latin American Observatory of Environmental Conflicts (OLCA), the group’s message was received positively by representatives on the commission, which is part of the lower house of the Chilean legislature. The article was signed by several groups advocating for glacier protection, including the Coordination of  Territories. It was posted by the indigenous media blog Mapu Express as well. According to the article, advocates for communities living alongside glaciers argued that these communities need to be able to secure their water rights in order to survive. Central and northern areas are the most dependent on glacial waters, and glaciers there would be left vulnerable by the law, advocates argue. They also point out that Chile is currently experiencing a prolonged water shortage. The draft law is currently under review within the Environment Ministry, and the group asked the Commission of Human and Indigenous Rights to review it. These advocates stated in an earlier post that industry interests have ensured that “Ningún glaciar quedará protegido”: Not one glacier would be protected. The groups are aligned against mining interests, including the state-owned copper company CODELCO and Consejo Minero, a mining industry group. Representatives on the committee acknowledged the role of mining interests in opposing glacier protection; Deputy Roberto Poblete, who sits on the committee, singled out Barrick Gold, a large mining company that operates in Chile, as an example of the forces at work against the law’s efficacy. Conflict between mining groups and local activists are taking place in other parts of the world as well, including Kyrgyzstan, as GlacierHub recently covered. The issue has also been picked up in American popular culture, on the TV show Madam Secretary. Chileans have been pressing their government to protect glaciers in law since 2014, when plans were announced to expand Chile’s largest mine, further impacting glaciers. Greenpeace started an advocacy campaign called “Glacier Republic” in which it jokingly claimed to declare Chile’s glaciers an independent country. Greenpeace’s efforts combined with those of a handful of Chilean politicians and grassroots activists. A march of two thousand people called for Chilean President Michelle Bachelet to protect the glaciers in law. Discussion of glacier protection in the law followed, and a group within Chile’s legislature advanced a bill to protect glaciers. GlacierHub reported in 2015 that though progress was made in bringing a law to the table, there was uncertainty in how far it would go to protect glaciers. The Chilean groups testified last month that the draft bill did not go far enough. In January, advocates detailed that the law’s impact would be severely limited. That’s because the law would require that a glacier be in a “Pristine Region,” a park or national reserve, or part of a declared Strategic Glacier Reserve to be protected. They wrote that there are several loopholes that could prevent glaciers that fall under these conditions from being protected. One of these loopholes is a legal provision that parkland can be opened to economic development if permission is granted...

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Why Didn’t These Two Glacier Countries Sign the Paris Accord?

Posted by on Apr 27, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Policy and Economics, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Why Didn’t These Two Glacier Countries Sign the Paris Accord?

Spread the News:ShareEarth Day, April 22, marked a major step forward in global efforts to address climate change when 175 parties gathered in New York to sign the Paris Agreement, the accord that had been adopted last December. The ceremony at the United Nations Headquarters marked the historical record for first-day signatures on an international agreement.  This event marks a strong commitment to the next phase of the process, in which countries deposit the technical documents known as “instruments of ratification,” which spell out in greater detail the steps that they will take to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said: “Today is a remarkable, record-breaking day in the history of international cooperation on climate change and a sustainable future for billions of people alive today and those to come.”   Record support for advancing #ParisAgreement entry into force – 175 Parties have signed https://t.co/YjTPwHar5k pic.twitter.com/OlOqmHHMAy — UN Climate Action (@UNFCCC) April 23, 2016 Countries with glaciers have already experienced the impact of climate change directly. Did this make them more likely to sign the agreement? The large countries with glaciers, like the US, China, India, Pakistan, Russia, Italy, and France, all signed. However, not all of the smaller countries did. By GlacierHub’s reckoning, there are 11 such small glacier countries. Nine of them signed: Iceland, Norway, Austria, Switzerland, Nepal, Bhutan, Peru, Tajikistan, and New Zealand. Chile was one of the two that did not participate. Their failure to attend the ceremony in New York will not prevent them from joining, since the signing period remains open for a year. The leaders in that country, who otherwise would have traveled to New York, remained in Chile to mark the death of Patricio Aylwin, the 97-year-old former president who passed away on April 19. Aylwin was elected to power in 1990, marking the return to democracy in the country after 17 years of military rule under Augusto Pinochet, who had deposed the democratically-elected Socialist president, Salvador Allende, in a coup. The other country that did not sign was Kyrgyzstan, despite the fact that it had a significant delegation at COP21 in Paris last year. The reasons for its failure to participate are more complex. Leaders in that country may also have had their attention distracted by national events. A new prime minister, Sooronbay Jeenbekov, assumed office on April 13, replacing Temir Sariyev, who had held the position for less than a year.   To understand Kyrgyzstan’s absence, GlacierHub contacted a number of people in Central Asia. One of our contacts wrote that they had heard that Kyrgyzstan will sign the Paris Agreement this fall. “It’s a [pitiful] situation. The country could have at least sent an intention of signing the agreement,” this person wrote. “In the meantime, Kyrgyzstan is going through the internal process of discussion over the Paris agreement, which didn’t take place before COP 21 in December 2015. … [T]he ratification of the Paris agreement could have been organized after government signing the agreement, but the process is taking place now.” Another, writing in a tone that suggests greater disappointment, stated: “This is a very sad story… The agreement was not properly discussed between the ministries. They will sign, but later. Certainly not a good sign about the capacities of the responsible bodies.” A third, seemingly resigned to such delays, told us: “I am not surprised given the chaos in the government. …   It has to do with simple government bureaucratic capacity. A new Prime Minister was appointed only recently and a Paris agreement is...

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Why Didn’t These Two Glacier Countries Sign the Paris Agreement?

Posted by on Apr 27, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Policy and Economics | 0 comments

Why Didn’t These Two Glacier Countries Sign the Paris Agreement?

Spread the News:ShareEarth Day, April 22, marked a major step forward in global efforts to address climate change when 175 parties gathered in New York to sign the Paris Agreement, the accord that had been adopted last December. The ceremony at the United Nations Headquarters marked the historical record for first-day signatures on an international agreement.  This event marks a strong commitment to the next phase of the process, in which countries deposit the technical documents known as “instruments of ratification,” which spell out in greater detail the steps that they will take to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said: “Today is a remarkable, record-breaking day in the history of international cooperation on climate change and a sustainable future for billions of people alive today and those to come.”   Record support for advancing #ParisAgreement entry into force – 175 Parties have signed https://t.co/YjTPwHar5k pic.twitter.com/OlOqmHHMAy — UN Climate Action (@UNFCCC) April 23, 2016 Countries with glaciers have already experienced the impact of climate change directly. Did this make them more likely to sign the agreement? The large countries with glaciers, like the US, China, India, Pakistan, Russia, Italy, and France, all signed. However, not all of the smaller countries did. By GlacierHub’s reckoning, there are 11 such small glacier countries. Nine of them signed: Iceland, Norway, Austria, Switzerland, Nepal, Bhutan, Peru, Tajikistan, and New Zealand. Chile was one of the two that did not participate. Their failure to attend the ceremony in New York will not prevent them from joining, since the signing period remains open for a year. The leaders in that country, who otherwise would have traveled to New York, remained in Chile to mark the death of Patricio Aylwin, the 97-year-old former president who passed away on April 19. Aylwin was elected to power in 1990, marking the return to democracy in the country after 17 years of military rule under Augusto Pinochet, who had deposed the democratically-elected Socialist president, Salvador Allende, in a coup. The other country that did not sign was Kyrgyzstan, despite the fact that it had a significant delegation at COP21 in Paris last year. The reasons for its failure to participate are more complex. Leaders in that country may also have had their attention distracted by national events. A new prime minister, Sooronbay Jeenbekov, assumed office on April 13, replacing Temir Sariyev, who had held the position for less than a year.   To understand Kyrgyzstan’s absence, GlacierHub contacted a number of people in Central Asia. One of our contacts wrote that they had heard that Kyrgyzstan will sign the Paris Agreement this fall. “It’s a [pitiful] situation. The country could have at least sent an intention of signing the agreement,” this person wrote. “In the meantime, Kyrgyzstan is going through the internal process of discussion over the Paris agreement, which didn’t take place before COP 21 in December 2015. … [T]he ratification of the Paris agreement could have been organized after government signing the agreement, but the process is taking place now.” Another, writing in a tone that suggests greater disappointment, stated: “This is a very sad story… The agreement was not properly discussed between the ministries. They will sign, but later. Certainly not a good sign about the capacities of the responsible bodies.” A third, seemingly resigned to such delays, told us: “I am not surprised given the chaos in the government. …   It has to do with simple government bureaucratic capacity. A new Prime Minister was appointed only recently and a Paris agreement is...

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