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AQUATIC HABITATS: A SILENT WORLD?

 

Aquatic habitats are no “silent world” as Jacques Cousteau has written. They are filled by several, different sound sources. Waves and water turbulences are just some example of physical sources of sounds, but physical sources are not the only ones. An immense variety of aquatic animals depends on sounds for activities that are crucial for their survival, and their vocalisations are called by scientists “biophony” (the symphony of life). Marine mammals are the ocean’s most famous singers, but fish vocalise too. More than 800 species of fish depend on sounds to survive and reproduce. Fish sound production is especially conspicuous during the reproductive season and is typically related to agonistic interactions and mating activities.

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The underwater world is filled by several different sound sources: waves, water turbulence, noise induced by meteorological or seismic events (geophony), noise coming from human activities (anthrophony) but also animals “chatting” (biophony). The songs of whales and dolphins are the most famous, but actually, an immense variety of aquatic animals depends on sounds for activities which are crucial for their survival.

In the last fifty years, human activities have radically changed aquatic environments by adding incredibly numerous sources of noise. Small boats, commercial boats, seismic exploration, military activities, windfarms, pile driving…anything but a “silent world”, we are actually creating an ocean of noise. The most common man-made source of noise is shipping. The rumble of engines, propellers, and other commercial shipping noise can be heard in virtually every corner of the ocean. In a world in which 80% of global trading takes place at the sea, the number of merchant ships has tripled in the last 75 years and the number of recreational boats keeps increasing as well. Vessels noise in coastal area has become a form of chronic, constant pollution.

Anthropogenic noise is now recognised as a significant pollutant in the marine environment, and the potential consequences for animal survival are of international concern. Some species may acclimatise to noise after chronic exposure, others may struggle to develop and survive. Considering the global extent and the wide range of effects of noise pollution on aquatic life, man-made noise has been identified as a target for the monitoring of a good quality coastal environment in both Europe and USA (e.g. inclusion in the US National Environment Policy Act and in the European Commission Marine Strategy Framework Directive).

But which type of effects can noise have on aquatic life? If they can, animals try to escape from noise, possibly giving up to other important activities, such as feeding and reproduction. For example, avoidance reactions to vessel noise have been noticed in several fish species such as herring, cod, rudd and roach. And if they can’t escape, physiological effects can be expected. Exposure to noise causes stress to several fish species: their heart bits quicker, they move more and their stress hormones increases. Anthropogenic noise can also have other physiological effects. The brown shrimp, for example, grows less, reproduce less and its mortality rate increases; other fish species grow less and produce less viable eggs.

When the situation gets louder, an immediate physiological response has been noticed in several species: a temporary threshold shift. Is basically what happens to us after spending a night out in a really loud place, like a nightclub. For a short period of time, we do not hear very well: this happens because our hearing threshold has shifted a little bit up, meaning that the exposure to noise has temporarily compromised our hearing capabilities. Of course, if the noise is too loud or the time of exposure is prolonged, aquatic animals suffer of a permanent hearing damage: in other words, their hearing ability is permanently impaired. Sometimes, with very loud sounds like the one used in military activities and in seismic surveys, this damage can be so severe to make animals literally deaf or, worst, death. The continuous and increasing level of anthropogenic noise can also make impossible for animals to hear important signals, like predator noises or mate calls. As it happens to us when we try to speak in a noisy place, animals in a noisy environment simply do not hear each other and the communication is difficult, if not impossible. And if the communication was oriented to finding a mate…this could not lead to an unhappy ending…

Raising our awareness to the problem of underwater noise pollution can help us lower man-made volume, in the oceans and in freshwaters. Aquatic animals would surely thank us for it!

Want to learn more?

Check the video we produced, give a look to the reference lists below and…help us spreading the voice!


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SIMPLE ADVISES FOR REDUCING OUR LITTERING FOOTPRINT

Land and sea, no matter where we are, are connected.

Any trash that is disposed of improperly can potentially enter the ocean or other waterways, and anyone who disposes of trash improperly can be a source of marine debris! Yes, even you!

Marine debris is one of the greatest threats our ocean faces (check our post Plastic pollution: a wave of plastic for more details about the extent and the effects of marine plastic pollution) but luckily it is an issue with which we can all play a part in the solution.

We all should be aware that plastics and plastic chemicals are ubiquitous, and we truly can’t eliminate all risks associated with plastics. But we can reduce them, and we can choose to support businesses and institutions that are attempting to do the same.

Plastic pollution can be reduced by using less plastics products and switching to alternatives.

Among the existing solutions recycling is one of the most convenient and easiest ways. As consumers, the recycling only requires one easy step of putting plastic wastes in right bins for disposal. Separating the plastic waste from other waste will prevent plastics to be land filled and will allow it to be recycled with other plastics of the same kind.

Source reduction (Reduce and Reuse) can occur by altering the design, manufacture, or use of plastic products and materials.
To be effective our actions should embrace the so called five R’s: ‘reduce, reuse, recycle, recover and redesign’.

On each Friday and over the last two months, on our Facebook page, we have published an advise on a simple, easy to implement but effective action for reducing our plastic footprint (haven’t you like it yet? Link here Artemis Eyes Project Facebook page).

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These advises have now been collected altogether in a new video published on the Artemis Eyes Youtube channel. There would be many other actions that could be implemented, but already starting with these would make a huge difference!

Watch this video and try to implement these simple actions, it’s really not hard at all! You can make a huge difference, especially if a lot of us will do the same: help us sharing the voice! Share this video with your friends! 

(Link to the video on youtube: Simple Advises for Reducing our Littering Footprint)

 

MARINE POLLUTION AWARENESS

Which is the level of public awareness on marine pollution?

New video on Artemis Eyes Channel!

(Youtube link: Marine Pollution Awareness- video)

In December 2015, an online survey was made public on the ec.europa.eu website; the survey was about public perception of marine pollution. The questions were few and simple: do you think that chemical pollution is an issue for aquatic environments? What about plastic pollution? And climate change? Do you consider noise pollution  a threat for aquatic ecosystems? The same questions were asked in the streets of Galway, in May 2016.

The results of this survey show that the level of public awareness is quite satisfying when it comes to chemical and plastic pollution, and also climate change seems to be now recognized by most people as an issue for aquatic ecosystems.

 But what about noise pollution?

Anthropogenic noise acts on a global scale, results from a variety of sources and produce several different effects on the aquatic fauna (and ultimately, on the human kind as well). However, public awareness around this particular and urgent environmental matter is very low, and surely it’s not in line with the level of knowledge achieved to date by scientists researching anthropogenic noise.

 

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“Undersea noise pollution is like the death of a thousand cuts. Each sound in itself may not be a matter of critical concern, but taken all together, the noise from shipping,  seismic surveys and military activities are creating a totally different environment from what existed even 50 years ago” Sylvia Earle.

Do you want to learn more about anthropogenic noise?

Check  the Playlist “Noise Pollution” on the Artemis Eyes Project channel: Noise Pollution playlist

Please, like and share this playlist in order to help us raise awareness around this urgent environmental matter!

Stay tuned!

 

 

PLASTIC WAVE

In collaboration with Nicolo’ Ongaro (@Llumblava), Artemis Eyes just published a new video on its channel, called Plastic Wave.

Plastic Wave wants to tell you about plastic pollution in our oceans, by interviewing renowned scientists researching on this issue, by summarizing some of the knowledge achieved by scientists to date and by taking you for a dive underwater.

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Nicolo’ Ongaro filming Heidi Acampora (GMIT) showing us some of her research. Heidi is a PhD student at GMIT (Ireland) where she leads “The Republic of Ireland Beached Bird Survey”, a project that involves the collection of dead seabirds for marine litter research.

For too long, the vastness of the ocean has prompted people to overestimate its ability to safely absorb our wastes. Marine litter has become one of the most pervasive pollution problems facing the world’s oceans and waterways. Marine litter is defined as any persistent, solid material that is manufacturer or processed, and that is directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally discarded, disposed or abandoned in the marine and coastal environment.

Plastic and synthetic rubber are the most persistent between marine debris. Plastics are different from all the other marine debris. Plastics indeed do not biodegrade. Instead, they breakdown into small pieces due to oxidation or due to the physical action of waves, currents, and the grazing activities of fish and birds. Plastic can also break down when exposed to sunlight, a process called photodegradation, but it never truly goes away!

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Nicolo’ Ongaro filming Dr. Amy Lusher. Amy completed her PhD at GMIT (Ireland) in 2015. Her research focuses on the impact of microplastics in the marine environment.

 

While there is still relatively little information on the impact of plastic pollution on the ocean’s ecosystems, there is an increasing knowledge about its deleterious impacts on marine life.

Any trash that is disposed of improperly can potentially enter the ocean or other waterways, and anyone who disposes of trash improperly can be a source of marine debris! Yes, even you!

Marine debris is one of the greatest threats our ocean faces, but luckily it is an issue with which we can all play a part in the solution.

We all should be aware that plastics and plastic chemicals are ubiquitous, and we truly can’t eliminate all risks associated with plastics. But we can reduce them, and we can chose to support businesses and institutions that are attempting to do the same.

Plastic pollution can be reduced by using less plastics products and switching to alternatives. Among the existing solutions recycling is one of the most convenient and easiest ways. As consumers, the recycling only requires one easy step of putting plastic wastes in right bins for disposal. Separating the plastic waste from other waste will prevent plastics to be land filled and will allow it to be recycled with other plastics of the same kind. Source reduction (Reduce and Reuse) can occur by altering the design, manufacture, or use of plastic products and materials.

To be effective our actions should embrace the so called five R’s: ‘reduce, reuse, recycle, recover and redesign’.

Stay tuned for more contents and tips about how to reduce your plastic footprint!