Climate Change

Impact on our oceans 

Climate change is a major threat to life in the oceans. The oceans are vast, covering over 70% of the world’s surface, and the effects of climate change will be large and long-lasting. Even if we were stop all greenhouse gas emissions now, sea-levels would continue to rise for centuries to come.

Bleached coral The original uploader was Elapied at French Wikipedia.CC BY-SA 2.0 FR

The oceans are a gigantic store of heat and carbon. They have absorbed more than 90% of the additional heat and 30% of the extra carbon dioxide caused by human activities. As the seas and the atmosphere warm up, there are big risks to the oceans including melting of polar ice sheets, ocean acidification, loss of habitats including coral reefs and mangroves and rises in sea levels.

On this page we will look at some of the ways Climate Change is affecting our life in our seas and what projects are underway to try to help in this critical decade. This page will be updated with new blogs over the coming months.

Written by Dr Diana Wilkins, former Climate Scientist and Volunteer for the Booth Museum of Natural History

Diatoms: Hidden Climate Heroes

Written by Amy Charlton, Volunteer, Booth Museum of Natural History Diatoms are single-celled microscopic algae found in marine and freshwater ...
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Kittiwakes at Seaford Head in a changing climate

Kittiwakes at Seaford Head in a changing climate

Edward Thomas Booth notes in his catalogue from June, 1867 that kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla) are common. They are currently the ...
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Kitchen ocean science

Kitchen ocean science

It's not just plastics that are a threat to our  Oceans... As part of the water cycle, our oceans regulate ...
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Help our Kelp!

Help our Kelp!

Sussex Wildlife Trust talk to us about the latest updates of their HelpOurKelp campaign, why kelp is important and  what ...
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Ocean Warming Carl Lundin & Dan Laffolley, IUCN, 2016

Global Warming of 1.5 C IPCC, 2018

Climate Conversations  is Royal Pavilion & Museums blog series on Climate Change and what we can do about it.

 

Plastic Fantastic?

“Plastic is not an intrinsically bad material, it is an invention that has changed the world. The plastic became bad due to the way that industries and governments use it and the way society has converted it into a disposable and single-use convenience…’

These are the opening words of the WWF Report 2019 (World Wildlife Fund) on plastic waste pollution on our planet.

Where does plastic waste come from? 

Many of us have heard about the problem of plastic in our oceans, but where does it come from?

Globally, over 80% of the yearly input comes from land-based sources, such as plastic packaging and bottles. Over 90% of the plastic waste that gets into the ocean is carried there by ten rivers in Asia and Africa. These rivers flow through areas of high population where people don’t have access to good waste disposal.

In contrast, in the UK, plastic which goes in our bins is either recycled, burned for energy or buried in a landfill.  This shouldn’t end up in the ocean if managed properly. Instead, the larger pieces of plastic that enter the sea come from plastic pellets produced by industry, littering and plastic from fishing nets and ropes.

Another important source are microplastics

Microplastics

Microplastics  are less than half a centimetre in size. They come from the wear and tear on car types, the breakdown of plastic litter, cosmetic microbeads  and from washing clothes containing man-made fibres. Information on the effects of microplastics is limited. However, we know they don’t biodegrade and so build up in the marine environment, where they can be ingested by animals. These microplastics can contain plastics that are toxic to animals.

Around the world

Worldwide, the United Nations says that the equivalent of a garbage truck’s worth of plastic reaches the ocean every minute causing a range of problems for wildlife here are just some of the effects:

Plastic waste kills up to 1 million sea-birds, 100,000 other marine animals and countless fish each year.

Birds and animals eat pieces of plastic which may choke them. Or they may get caught up in rubbish and be injured or die. Even if they don’t die, the animals may be weaker and less successful at reproducing.

Some plastics contain chemicals that last for a very long-time and are toxic to wildlife.

Take Action! 

Many people and organisations across the globe are coming up with innovative solutions and campaigns trying to tackle the plastic problem. From scientists to artists and litter heroes, in the coming months,  we will be highlighting just some of these projects.

Around the world, governments are committed to taking action and the World Economic Forum has proposed 8 Steps to solve the oceans plastic problem. In the UK, the Environment Bill allows for deposit schemes, charges for single-use plastics and charges for carrier bags.

Plastic science in Sussex

Marine Bioplastics – Sussex student wins award for developing a biodegradable plastic from fish waste

Discover the Our Plastic Oceans by Mandy Barker temporary exhibition or find out how you can take action in the fight against plastic at Brighton & Hove’s recycling page Brighton & Hove  or discover more ways you can get involved via the links below.

Local Activists!

Local Activists!

What can we learn from local inspiring activists? How can we all get involved? Here we shine a spotlight on ...
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Our Plastic Ocean, by Mandy Barker

Our Plastic Ocean, by Mandy Barker

8 million tonnes of plastic end up in the world’s oceans every year. If these trends continue, our oceans will ...
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Kitchen ocean science

It’s not just plastics that are a threat to our  Oceans…

As part of the water cycle, our oceans regulate the amount of carbon in our atmosphere. You might have heard forests referred to as ‘the lungs of the earth’ (and they are very important), but the oceans store 16 times more carbon than terrestrial ecosystems, around 30% of carbon dioxide from human activity.

If too much carbon dioxide is stored in the ocean we see something called ocean acidification. But what is ocean acidification?  And how does it affect our oceans?

Here, we will discover the science behind ocean acidification and how you can  create an easy, and very cool, experiment at home turning red cabbage…

 From this…

To this!

 

 

The Science

The Science
What is ocean acidification?  Ocean acidification reduces the amount of carbonate in the sea, affecting organisms whose bodies are made ...
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The Experiment

The Experiment
Making a Ocean acidification (pH) indicator This experiment uses the natural properties of the humble red cabbage as a magic ...
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Find out more in Climate Conversations  a Royal Pavilion & Museums blog series on Climate Change and what we can do about it.

References:

https://www.noaa.gov/education/resource-collections/ocean-coasts/ocean-acidification

https://coastadapt.com.au/ocean-acidification-and-its-effects

https://www.iucn.org/resources/issues-briefs/ocean-acidification

https://www.opb.org/news/article/dungeness-crab-ocean-acidification-dissolve-shell/

 

Written by Juliet Maxted, Zoology graduate & Booth Museum volunteer 

Kittiwakes at Seaford Head in a changing climate

Edward Thomas Booth notes in his catalogue from June, 1867 that kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla) are common. They are currently the most numerous gull species in the UK; however, they are now in serious decline. Since 2000 black-legged kittiwake numbers have declined by more than half.

Black-legged kittiwake in Rørvik, Norway, by Becky Matsubara from El Sobrante, California CC BY 2.0

Booth’s entry about the summer kittiwake diorama discusses the Sea-Bird Preservation Act that protected the birds. In Booth’s opinion:

‘the senseless slaughter that took place round their breeding-stations every summer having been allowed to continue too long without interference.’

The Sea Bird Preservation Act of 1869 was the first in the country to protect birds. It prevented people from killing seabirds and collecting their eggs from April to August so that they could breed. The main motivation for this was not for the protection of the birds themselves, but to aid sailors who relied on healthy seabird populations to find land in foggy conditions.

Illustration of Kittiwakes, female and young, by Edward Neale from Rough Notes on birds in the British Islands by Edward Thomas Booth.

As a collector of birds, Booth’s following sentence contains no sense of irony at his killing of these birds: ‘The specimens in this case were obtained at the Bass Rock in June, 1867.’ The winter kittiwake diorama contains adults in winter plumage and juveniles that were ‘shot a few miles off Brighton, in the winter of 1870.’

The black-legged kittiwakes joined the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species in 2018. Current threats to kittiwakes are associated with their prey, sand-eels and herring which are in decline, due to the effects of climate change. This impacts the prey the sand-eels feed on and the breeding season of the herring, which no longer coincides with the kittiwake breeding season. This results in lower breeding success for the kittiwakes.

Kittiwakes at Seaford Head copyright Andy Hay, courtesy of RSPB Brighton & District Local Group

Despite the downward trend of many populations of kittiwakes, the colony at Seaford Head in Sussex continues to thrive. Seaford Head to Beachy Head is designated as an area of Special Scientific Interest and Seaford Head Nature Reserve is part managed by Sussex Wildlife Trust and the National Trust. There are over 1000 nests in the kittiwake colony. No one knows exactly why they are doing better than other colonies around the UK. A possible explanation is that prey species are also faring better in the South East. However, this may change as sea temperatures are expected to rise faster along the south coast bringing more unpredictable changes for the kittiwakes and their associated marine ecosystem.

Written by Kerrie Curzon, Collections Assistant, The Booth Museum of Natural History