Tuesday, 9 August 2016

We're trashing the oceans - and they're making us sick

Six years ago, in a bracing 18-minute TED talk, coral reef scientist Jeremy Jackson laid out "how we wrecked the ocean".

In the talk, he detailed not only how overfishing, global warming, and various forms of pollution are damaging ocean ecosystems - but also, strikingly, how these human-driven injuries can be harmful to those who live on land.

Toxic algal blooms, for instance, can actually damage air quality near the coast. "The coast, in
 stead of being paradise, is harmful to your health," he said.

There was a recent striking example of this off the coast of Florida, when a toxic bloom that began in Lake Okeechobee - fanned by high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous pollution - spread to Florida's coast after flows from the swollen lake were released to keep water levels down.

Now, unfortunately, new research suggests yet another example. In a new study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of researchers find that Vibrio bacteria, tiny marine organisms capable of causing deadly infections in both human and also fish, are becoming more prevalent in the North Atlantic coastal region as ocean waters warm.
(We're causing that overall trend of warming, of course, by driving climate change, though there are also natural oscillations at work here.)

Indeed, human infections caused by these critters are also on the rise. The research finds these are growing at an "unprecedented rate" along the US Atlantic coast and also the coasts of Northern Europe.


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