Experimental Fix to Melting Ice Sheets

Is there a cost to global sea level rise? Yes, approximately $50 trillion per year in damages.  The infrastructure needed to create and maintain sea walls and flood defenses cost tens of billions of dollars a year according to John C. Moore. What is adding to the cost? The infrastructure costs approximately $20-33 billion to build. For the installment of the Three Gorges Dam in China spend $33 billon to construct the dam.

Most of the water from sea level rise will come from the melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica.

ice melting in Antarctica

In their research, they explore three ways we can delay the loss of ice sheets. They suggest to block warm water, support ice shelves, and dry subglacial streams. Note that all of these potential solutions could disrupt natural ecosystems, fisheries, tourism, and water flow. However, Moore and his co-authors argue their solutions may be worth the risk to the present dilemma in the rise of global sea levels.

To block warm water from the Atlantic Ocean, the authors suggest constructing a 100-meter-high wall with sliding sides along the 5-kiometer fjord in front of the Jakobshavn glacier near western Greenland. A fjord is a narrow inlet with steep sides or cliffs created by a glacier. The importance of this project would be similar to other large civil-engineering projects like the Suez Canal in Egypt, Hong Kong airport, Three Gorges Dam in China. However, this project would need 0.1 cubic kilometers of gravel and sand compared to 1, 0.3, or 0.028 cubic kilometers of material needed for the projects in Egypt, Hong Kong, or China.

The Jakobshavn glacier is one of the fastest moving ice masses on Earth, and it contribute to most of the sea level rise than other glaciers located in the Northern Hemisphere. Furthermore, 4% of twentieth century seal level rise can be attribute to this glacier.

For their second solution, Moore and his co-authors they would construct a berm (raised banks bordering river or canal) and islands to artificially pin ice shelves in front of the Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers in West Antarctica. Ideally, this would temporary prevent the movement of the glacier. Similar to the first plan, these materials need to be outsourced to material to build the berm and island.   Models predict that Pine Island Glacier and Thwaites will be the largest source of se level rise in the next two centuries, contributing 4 centimeters a year.

For dry subglacial streams, they want to reduce the rate of melting by removing the glacier’s ice bed to reduce frictional heating in Antarctica. When they remove the ice bed, they will use a pumping station to extract or freeze the water at the glacier’s base to slow sliding. This process would be important to mitigate sea level rise because glacier ice beds supply 90% of ice in the sea.

With this intensive construction and extraction of materials, do their plans sound plausibly or worthwhile? The authors leave it to other glaciologist and engineers to test their projects.  Also, if this plan does carryon, who will need to approve this project? This project may result in global consequences if they do not structure it properly. What are your thoughts on this project?



Moore, John C. et al. 2018. Geoengineer polar glaciers to slow seal-level rise. Springer Nature 555: 303-305.

Storm Chasers: SPACE EDITION

View of a Cyclone from Space.

The Deep Space Gateway is back and better than ever! On February 28th Timothy Lang, a Research Aerospace Technologist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, gave a talk a about The Deep Space Gateway Lightning Mapper (DLM) at a Deep Space Gateway Concept Science Workshop in Denver, Colorado. Lang introduced the concept of the Lightning Mapper, what it will do, and why it is important to be incorporated on the Deep Space Gateway. The Deep Space Gateway Lighting Mapper will be used to help track global change and thunderstorm processes by looking at high latitude lightning. It is planned to combine data from the sampling of individual thunderstorms with observations of the lightning at high latitudes. High latitudes are the areas greater than 50 degrees and occur nearer to the north and south poles of the Earth. Some questions the scientists want to answer are, “How is global change affecting thunderstorm patterns?” and “How do high-latitude thunderstorms differ from low-latitude?”

The Deep Space Gateway’s orbit provides a continuous view of the high latitudes of Earth and makes it the best place to monitor lightning. These regions are not well covered by current lighting mappers and other types of orbits have many drawbacks that prevent continuous coverage. Lang continued to pitch the project in the rest of his presentation. He highlighted the fact that the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has declared lightning an essential climate variable that can provide important information about our ozone and atmospheric precipitation. Also, 75% of wildfires in high latitudes are caused by lightning, so many governmental departments are interested in becoming partners in the effort. In other words, we hope he gets the money!

LINK: https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20180001589.pdf

Lang, T., R. J. Blakeslee, D. J., Blakeslee, R.J., Cecil, D.J., Christian, H.J., Gatlin, P.N., Goodman, S.J., Koshak, W.A., Petersen, W.A., Quick, M. and Schultz, C.J. 2018. The Deep Space Gateway Lighting Mapper (DLM) – Monitoring Global Change and Thunderstorm Processes Through Observations of Earth’s High-Latitude Lighting from Cis-Lunar Orbit. NASA Technical Reports Server. 20180001589.

4 Herbal Supplements for Anxiety and Depression

Passionflower image
Passionflower; Credit: Martin Thomas, Creative Commons
Saffron flowers
Saffron flowers; Credit: Ioulrc, Creative Commons
Chaste berry
Flowering chaste-tree; Credit: Tatters, Creative Commons
Lavender; Credit: Amanda Slater, Creative Commons














According to a recent study, one-third of cancer patients suffer from anxiety, depression, or adjustment disorder in the months following their diagnosis. As a result, many of them add prescription anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) and antidepressant drugs to their cocktail of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, anti-coagulants, and antibiotic drugs.

The problem is that some of these anxiolytic and antidepressant drugs interact with cancer treatments and are less effective in cancer patients. They also trigger a horde of negative side effects that compound the side effects of regular cancer treatments, including seizures, headaches, and addiction.

A group of scientists at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City decided to take a closer look at alternative herbal remedies to treat anxiety and depression in cancer patients. Research done on herbal supplements and plant extracts has been scarce, so the scientists examined a collection of studies completed between 1996 and 2016. By gathering and organizing the data, they noticed that not only are several alternative remedies helpful in ameliorating anxiety and depression, they also counteract aversive effects of chemotherapy and even combat cancer themselves. While not a perfect substitute, the following herbs have promising potential:

1. Extracts of saffron, a spice derived from a Middle Eastern flower, may be able to treat mild to moderate anxiety about as well as fluoxetine (Prozac) and imipramine (Tofranil). It has also been successful in easing anxiety and depression caused by PMS in women.

2. Lavender pills, made from oil of the lavender plant, are able to treat anxiety comparable to the drugs paroxetine (Paxil) and lorazepam (Ativan), but with fewer side effects. Lavender lotions and diffuser oils are often advertised for their calming and relaxation properties, and this holds true for lavender tea and extract drops, which may increase the efficacy of antidepressants citalopram (Celexa) and imipramine (Tofranil).

3. Passionflower, although no better than prescription drugs, seems to perform similarly but with fewer side effects, when compared to oxazepam (Serax) and sertraline (Zoloft). This substance also comes from a flower, which Native Americans have historically used to prevent insomnia.

4. Chasteberry, typically used for PMS symptoms, was compared to fluoxetine (Prozac), and while it didn’t seem to address psychological symptoms of depression, including persistent sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest, it did alleviate physical symptoms, such as sleep trouble, digestive problems, muscle aches, and headaches.

Overall, researchers found that the herbs are not as potent, but are safer than the prescription counterparts. Clinical trials are needed to further analyze the potential of these herbal supplements and determine their benefits, especially within a oncology context. Because these supplements can be purchased over the counter, physicians don’t always know which supplements their patients are taking. It’s important to discuss an alternative treatment plan with a doctor before use.


Simon Yeung, K., Hernandez, M., Mao, J.J, Haviland, I., & Gubili, J. (2018). Herbal medicine for depression and anxiety: A systematic review with assessment of potential psycho-oncologic relevance. Phythother Res. [Epub ahead of print]. doi: 10.1002/ptr.6033

Poaching: How bad is it?


On March 19th, 2018 the last male Northern White Rhino died. Two of his kind remain, but both are older females that are unable to reproduce. The decline in the Northern White Rhino population is much attributed to uncontrolled mass hunting and poaching. Although, rhinos aren’t in this alone. An increasing number of large mammals are being threatened for their meat and skin. Elephants, are among those.

A recent study examines just how horrific elephant poaching is in the nation of Myanmar. The Asian Elephant population here has declined drastically over the last couple of decades due to poachers who hunt the animals for their meat and skin, which is thought to have medicinal purposes. Researchers collared 19 elephants with a goal of better understanding where conflicts with humans arise and educating local communities on how to live in proximity to the elephants. They studied elephants from three different areas in Myanmar. The first was the Bago Yoma foothills where the creation of two dams and the settlement of dam workers is causing conflicts with the elephants who reside there. Second was the Ayeyarwady Delta where elephants have been displaced due to the increase of agricultural land and highway construction. The last location was in the Tanintharyi region where elephants were also affected by an expansion of agriculture. After a year of GPS tracking the animals, 7 out of 19 were lost. 5 of the 7 elephants bodies were found, with the other 2 unable to be located. Researchers were not able to identify the age or sex of the carcasses because their deaths were so brutal. By the end of the study, the team of researchers and associates had come across numerous elephant carcasses and kill sites throughout the areas of study.

This work shows the need for better management practices and policy geared towards illegal poaching and trafficking of elephant parts, meat, and skin. With 25 known elephants poached in 2016 alone, the population is sure to come to the fate of the Northern White Rhino if nothing is done. In addition to collecting survival data of several elephants in Myanmar, researchers also conducted community outreach programs in all three areas of study. Hopefully people will learn to live with the animals and protect their species from another anthropogenic extinction.


Source: Sampson, C., et al. 2018. New elephant crisis in Asia- Early warning signs from Myanmar. Plos One 13 (3): e0194113.

Image: Flickr


Prediabetes Causing Post Stroke Cognitive Impairment


Scientists at Wenzhou Medical University in China have established an association between prediabetes and the development of post-stroke cognitive impairment (PSCI). Prediabetes is a state between normal blood-sugar conditions and diabetes mellitus (DM). Cognitive impairment after stroke is fairly common, but varies based on country, race and diagnostic criteria. Prediabetes and DM are both common risk factors of stroke. DM has already been related to PSCI by previous studies, however, as far as the authors’ understanding goes, this was the first study to explore a relationship between PSCI and prediabetes.

Prediabetes is a strong predictor of DM and can be diagnosed by characteristic changes in blood sugar level. Based on these levels, the patients were categorized into diabetes mellitus (DM), prediabetes and non-DM groups. The study evaluated the cognitive function of 201 patients 1 month after a stroke.The study diagnosed 74 of the total 201 patients with PSCI. Data showed the percentage of PSCI patients to be 18.1%, 35.7% and 49.3% respectively for the non-DM, prediabetes, and DM patients.

Analysis based on sex and smoking history surprisingly showed that patients who were female and non-smokers are at a greater risk of PSCI than any other group.

A statistical test conducted to adjust for confounders showed an association between PSCI and prediabetes. Confounders lead to bias that distorts the magnitude of the relationship between two factors of interest. For example, results showed that age and educational level also influenced the effects of prediabetes on PSCI. However, this was found to be untrue after adjusting for confounders.

The study included individuals who had suffered a stroke less than 7 days before admission and were diagnosed using CT scan and MRI. However, it excluded all individuals who had a history of severe depression and other psychiatric disorders or severe nervous system diseases. PSCI was evaluated by experienced neurological physicians who were not aware about the patients’ clinical examination and lab results.

The results were strong, but there were limitations to the study. The use of antidiabetic medicine post stroke was not recorded. Patients with speech and language disorders were excluded, which could have cause biases in the study. Moreover, the time span between stroke and PSCI assessment would have provided more appropriate results if it was longer than one month, for example, 3 to 6 months. Nevertheless, the study proved that prediabetes is a determinant of PSCI and suggests prediabetes patients to maintain normal blood sugar level as a preventive measure.


Wang, Q., Zhao, K., Cai, Y., Tu, X., Liu, Y., He, J. 2017. Prediabetes is associated with post-stroke cognitive impairment in ischaemic stroke patients. Elsevier/North-Holland Biomedical Press 1687:137-143

 Link to article

Image 1,  Image 2

Sea Ice, Warming, and Bears Oh my

Whenever I think of global climate change one of the first images that pops into my mind is that of a polar bear stranded out on a glacier. To me this image alluding to the polar bear’s ‘impending demise’ has in a way become s a rallying point in the fight against global warming. Polar bears always seem to be brought up in conversation when talking about issues that are caused by global warming, yet in the past there’s been little known information about the actual details causing the polar bear’s declining population.

Polar Bear
Polar Bear jumping between masses of ice

Receding and changing sea ice conditions throughout the Arctic is mostly to blame. However, further details of why that is has been relative limited until fairly recently. Researchers from around the U.S. as part of the U.S. Geological survey, Alaska Science Center, attempted to find out more on these causing mechanisms. By simultaneously measuring a number of factors in polar bears lives including body condition, field metabolic rates, daily activity patterns, and their foraging success, the scientists found high metabolism rates and a deficiency in fat-rich food sources resulted in about half of the bears studied having far less energy intake then they should. For 91% of the polar bears time studied (8-11 days each), the animals were located on sea ice, meaning their food source would come almost entirely from ringed seals. Over a course of 10 to 12 days, 1 ringed seal adult, 3 sub-adult ringed seals, or 19 newborn ringed seal pups are needed simply to break even in energy needed to survive as a freelance bear. However, with reducing amounts of sea ice, scavenging for this food source becomes harder and harder. The researchers observed that 4 of the 9 bears lost over 10% of their fat in the 8-11 days they were observed.

What the researchers also found was that during late spring/early summer time, when the bears are supposed to be gaining weight for the coming winter, polar bears would not be able to reach their goal of 1kg of wight to 1kg of lean body mass (the preferred fatness) unless they either reduced their energy demands or increased food consumption. Yet, these two motives are much easier said then done. The polar bears energy needed for survival is directly correlated with how far the polar bears have to roam around in order to find their next meal. And with the fragmenting sea ice caused by global warming the distance they have to travel increases each year leading to increased amounts of energy being used. The end result, is that these fragmentation’s could be a big factor in the declining body condition and mortality of this species.


Pagano, A. M., et al. 2018. High-energy, high-fat lifestyle challenges an Arctic apex predator, the polar bear. Science Magazine, V. 359(6375): 568-572.

Want to be an Astronaut? Better Start Eating Your Fruits and Veggies Now

Even Astronauts in space get sick and NASA is trying to help them live healthier lives. In 2017, Researches at NASA, The University of Texas Medical Branch, and the J. Craig Venter Institute started a program to study how spaceflight impacts human physiology, the immune system, and the microbiota in the gut. Microbiota are organisms that live in your digestive tract that help to break down the food that you eat. Since diet is one of the few thing that NASA can actually control on spaceflights, the team designed an experiment to study diet of astronauts in a stimulation on earth. The scientist believed that eating more fruits and vegetables and things like omega-3 fatty acids and lycopene would actually improve the immune response, gut microbiota, and nutrition of astronauts. This improved diet should improve the health of the crew and reduce any negative physiological effects caused by space flight.

In order to perform this study, the researchers will compare what astronauts eat now on the International Space Station to the new diets that included more fruits and veggies. Four 45 day mission tests will be executed in a closed chamber that mimics flight in space. The participants will have bio sampling done both before and after their time in the simulation chamber. The research team plans to record dietary intake, immune markers, profiles of gut microbiomes, and nutritional status biomarkers and metabolites. After the data is collected, statistical evaluations will determine if the new diet improved the health of our astronauts. There has already been data collected from two crew members during the first mission, entitled Campaign 4 Mission 1. A second mission was attempted but the results were not valid because it had to be cut short due to the effects of Hurricane Harvey. After the completion of the study, the hope is that an improved diet will keep our astronauts healthier and hopefully ease the transition back to Earth!


LINK: https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20170008859.pdf

Douglas, G. L., Zwart, S. R., Young, M., Kloeris, V., Crucian, B., Smith, S. M., Lorenzi, H. 2018. The Integrated Impact of Diet on Human Immune Response, The Gut Microbiota, and Nutritional Status During Adaptation to a Spaceflight Analog. NASA Technical Reports Server. JSC-CN-40467.

Winter is Coming and Staying

Snowfall in Boston
Snowfall in the Greater Boston area has been so severe this year that some public schools have extended classes until July. Source: Flickr

Extreme winters have become the new norm in northeastern states of the United States, and researchers have recently found the reason why. In March of 2018, scientists at Rutgers University published a study in Nature Communications on their findings that there is a correlation between the frequency of extreme winter weather in the North-Eastern region of the United States to changes in Arctic temperatures.

Recently warm temperatures in the Arctic cause the jet stream – a band of strong westerly air currents that encircle the globe several miles above the earth’s surface – to occasionally move farther south, causing cold air to reach all the way down to the eastern United States. The timing of this research is somewhat convenient, as it follows increasingly extreme winters, as well as record warm Arctic temperatures and low sea ice, record-breaking disruptions in the polar vortex (a large area of low pressure and cold air surrounding both of the Earth’s poles), and record-breaking disruptive snowfall in the United States and Europe.

Researchers found that severe winter weather is two to four times more likely to occur in eastern United States when the Arctic is abnormally warm than when it is colder than normal. The study also showed that colder winters in the northern latitudes of Europe and Asia are significantly related to the warming of Arctic. On the other hand, the study also showed a correlation between the likelihood of severe winter weather in the western United States when the Arctic is colder than normal.

Researchers found that when warming of the Arctic occurs on the Earth’s surface, there is only a weak connection to severe winter weather in the northeastern region of the United States. However, when warming is extended to the stratosphere, it disrupts the polar vortex and severe weather is more likely.

To make these conclusions, researchers used three metrics of Arctic variability to diagnose the relationship between severe winter weather in the Northeast and Arctic temperatures. These measurements are called the polar cap geopotential height anomaly index (PCH), polar cap air temperature anomaly index (PCT), and the Accumulated Winter Season Severity Index (AWSSI).

The PCT and PCH indices measure geopotential height (the vertical coordinate system referenced to Earth’s mean sea level) and temperature anomalies that occur between the 65th parallel north (a circle of latitude that is 65 degrees north of the Earth’s equator) and the north pole. The AWSSI identifies severe weather owning to snowfall and temperatures at individual locations across the United States. Researchers analyzed changes in AWSSI in relation to changes in PCT and PCH to explore the relationship between Arctic variability and severe winter weather.  They found that an increase in abnormalities occurring in polar cap temperatures and geopotential height are correlated with higher values of the AWSSI, meaning an increase in cold spells and heavy snowfalls.

Inevitably, there will be an increase in certain types of weather extremes due to the effects of anthropogenic global warming. Researchers at Rutgers University have presented a quantitative analysis of the link between Arctic variability and severe winter weather, suggesting that the pattern of colder and harsher winters in the Northeast are attributed to Arctic warming is no coincidence.

Judah Cohen, Karl Pfeiffer, Jennifer A. Francis. Warm Arctic episodes linked with increased frequency of extreme winter weather in the United StatesNature Communications, 2018; 9 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-02992-9

What do wastewater and earthquakes have in common?

Researchers predict that the second highest earthquake in Kansas between 2013-2016 resulted from the deep injection of wastewater from the oil and gas production. These earthquakes occurred in southern Kansas, frequently in Harper County and neighboring counties. Historically, the magnitude of earthquakes in southern Kansas where below 2.0. However, they peaked in 2015 with 51 earthquakes above the magnitude of 3.0.

For their study, they focused on Sumner and Harper County in southern Kansas. Oil and gas operation began in Sumner County in 1915 and in Harper County in 1950. This contributed 1 million barrels of oil and 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas in Kansas. However, oil production decreased between 1960 and 2010; while gas production remained constant until 2015, especially in Harper County, according to the authors. This interest resulted from the Mississippi Limestone Play that promised a plentiful source of natural gas to companies through hydraulic fracturing or horizontal drilling in Oklahoma and Kansas.  Wastewater disposal, typically, is deposited in the Arbuckle group, which is an aquifer that covers most of the state of Kansas. The Arbuckle group lies on the Precambrian basement that creates fractures and faults in the Arbuckle geological formation. Therefore, if water withdraws and wastewater injections disrupt Precambrian basement, this could lead to frequent earthquakes. Within this study area, there was a correlation between the highest total volume wells and the wells with most documented seismic activity. From their results, earthquakes appeared to lag 2 to 6 months after the wastewater injection.

To ensure their link between wastewater injection from oil and gas deep injection, Rubinstein  and his co-authors investigated if hydraulic fracturing led to seismic activity. They found that this possibility was low in this location because they did not spatially or temporally correlate in their results.

Rubinstein and his authors, also, found that They, also, found that the seismic activity in Kansas is parallel to the activity in Oklahoma which has a similar problem with frequent earthquakes. Recently, the rate of earthquakes decreased in Oklahoma and Kansas. The authors suggested that this was due to the economic and regulatory forces that prompted the decline in injection. In 2016, the Kansas Corporation Commission ordered the reduction of injection in southern Kansas. However, in future research, they will assess how other factors led to the decline in earthquakes.

Source: Rubinstein, J. L., Ellsworth, W.L., Dougherty, S.L. 2018. The 2013-2016 induced earthquakes in harper and sumner Counties, southern kansas. Bulletin of Seismological Society of America 20:20.

The rising cost of poor diet: ADHD symptoms in children

A handful of Halloween candy later, and you are skipping around the room, your hands are fidgety, speech is jittery, and it’s hard to contain your burst of energy. You are probably quite familiar with the sugar rush that affects you this one day a year… two days a year? Three days? Almost every day?

Time and again, nutritional studies and long-term research has shown that poor dietary patterns of children influence neural development and behavior, especially hyperactivity and attention capacities, leading to diagnoses like ADHD.

A study from 2009 followed a group of children over several years and found that for significant increases in “junk food” consumption at ages 4-5, the risk for hyperactivity at age 7 was elevated. Another study, from 2004, demonstrated a prolonged association between artificial food coloring and hyperactivity. While the cause of ADHD is still undetermined, dietary patterns certainly play a role. Not only do high-fat, high-sugar diets cause issues in the developing nervous system, but these diets tend to also be low in valuable vitamins and micronutrients.

A more recent study, published online in March 2018 in European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, showed a positive correlation between a “processed” food pattern, a “snack” food pattern, and ADHD symptoms in children age 3-6. On the other hand, there was a negative correlation between a “vegetarian” food pattern and ADHD symptoms. This study used data collected from over 14,000 preschoolers in Ma’anshan City, China, and was the first large scale study in mainland China to investigate connections between diet and ADHD in children. The prevalence of ADHD symptoms in the group studied was 8.6%.

Researchers asked caregivers and parents to answer questionnaires about the recent food consumption and food choices of their children, and gave the children a Conners Abbreviated Symptom Questionnaire to assess for ADHD symptoms. Then, the researchers allocated five dietary patterns to represent the common answers expressed by the caregivers and parents: (1) “processed,” for fast food, fried foods, preserved fruit, and other high-fat food items, (2) “snack,” for high-sugar foods like sweets, biscuits, cakes, and chocolates, (3) “protein,” for red meat, poultry, eggs, fish, fruit, and rice, (4) “beverage,” for flavored milk, soda, and yogurt, and (5) “vegetarian,” for grains, beans, and fruit or vegetable juice.

Children who had a “processed” or “snack” dietary pattern had a significantly higher likelihood of demonstrating ADHD symptoms, hyperactivity, and attention problems. There was no correlation between ADHD symptoms and the “protein” or “beverage” categories, but the “vegetarian” dietary pattern seems to act as a protector against ADHD symptoms.

This study can not show causation, or that a poor diet causes ADHD. However, it can not be refuted that diet is an influencing factor in development and behavior in children. High-fat, high-sugar foods tend to be cheaper, more accessible, and more conveniently packaged in bags and wrappers for on-the-go, and they don’t need to be refrigerated. They taste good. But, the cost is a rising prevalence of ADHD and similar disorders. The relationship between food and hyperactivity is further evident through studies that have shown that elimination diets and fish oil supplements can reverse the ADHD symptoms. Fatty foods and sugary foods should be eaten in moderation; Halloween should not be occurring every day.


Yan, S., Cao, H., Gu, C., Ni, L., Tao, H., Shao, T., Xu, Y., & Tao, F. (2018). Dietary patterns are associated with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms among preschoolers in mainland China. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition [Published online March 13, 2018]. doi:10.1038/s41430-018-0131-0.

The Comeback of the Chesapeake Bay

Once known for its beauty and abundance of seafood, the Chesapeake is now known for its poor health and struggling ecosystems. Excessive pollution from the areas within the Bay have caused the collapse of fisheries and the creation of dead zones. The neglected health of its waters has come with a hefty price tag, costing the economy and those who depended on the Bay as a way of life. Recognizing the urgent need to save the Chesapeake, the government and scientific agencies have come together to take on the huge task presented.

A new study explains how 30 years of environmental policy governing the Bay has led to the successful recovery of its aquatic ecosystems. Researchers observe the increase in Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV) due to declining nutrient pollution. This proves as an example of how recovery can be achieved through management of nutrients and human stressors. Since 1984 the amount of nitrogen in the water has decreased by 23% and in return, there has been a 316% increase in SAV. To understand how nutrient pollution affects SAV, they conducted two analysis. The first observed 120 subestuaries that could impact local watershed nutrient loads and the second linked environmental conditions to SAV populations. Both of the analysis demonstrate that increased nutrient pollution from nonpoint source and point source reduce the amount of SAV. This is due to excess nitrogen that causes either increased algae cover or the accumulation of sulfides and excess phosphorus that causes phytoplankton bloom and therefore, decreased sunlight penetration.

Using aerial surveys, biogeochemical monitoring data, historical information, and watershed models the researchers concluded that the Chesapeake is indeed improving and without a doubt, due to the conservation and restoration efforts put in place. The recovery of SAV is especially important because these grasses provide habitat for crabs and fish, and are a clear indicator of healthy water quality. Slowly but surely, the Chesapeake will make a full recovery. Results from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s “State of the Bay” assessment show that 2016 was a record year, with the highest score of Bay health in 18 years. Both the CBF and the researchers agree that though this is promising news, there is still much more to be done and efforts should continue to strive for more.

If you live within one of the six states that the Bay occupies, consider how your actions can benefit or harm the amazing ecosystem that is the Chesapeake Bay. Visit http://www.cbf.org/ for more information.


Article Sources: Lefcheck, J.S., et al. 2018. Long term nutrient reductions lead to the unprecedented recovery of a temperate coastal region. PNAS. http://www.cbf.org/about-the-bay/state-of-the-bay-report/2016/