Langland Bay – CoCoast Unite – a citizen science weekend
Most people are fascinated by rockpools and the incredible range of life that lives in them. If you were fascinated by rock pools as a kid, or enjoy a walk along the beach you may be interested in watching or taking part in a special event at Langland Bay. The Marine Conservation Society is holding the CoCoast Unite event at the Bay on Saturday 10th June from 11:30 – 15:30.
Specially trained CoCoast volunteers can book to join this event. Even if you are not trained to help with the actual survey work you are invited to share the impact of their efforts. Volunteers are encouraged to post photos of the surveying activity through email or via social media using #CoCoastUnite. Details of how to get the special surveying training are available are at the bottom of this article.
Just stop for a minute and imagine the conditions coastal animals and plants live with each day. If we as human beings were left out to dry in the baking sun for half the day, then submerged in salt water or pushed around like driftwood in a storm we would clearly not survive. These are the typical conditions the remarkable range of animals and plants of our coasts have to survive.
The monitoring project at Langland Bay, Swansea is just part of a national project, where trained volunteer members of the public will join together to help build a more accurate picture of the incredibly diverse, and often specially adapted marine life, around the UK’s coastline.
The purpose of the primary CoCoast surveys (and the focus of the data collection on Saturday) is to increase baseline data on a range of species within the intertidal region around the UK. The data will be uploaded to the National Biodiversity Network from where it is essentially available to whoever wants it. Baseline data can then be used to support the identification of any changes in species composition, for example, as a result of climate change.
Understanding how well these species are doing is important in contributing to a wider understanding of the health of our oceans. The oceans are strongly connected to the overall health of the planet and even the very quality of the air we as humans depend on.
Scientists will be working with a trained army of ‘citizen scientists during this ‘CoCoast Unite’ national weekend, taking place between World Oceans Day on Thursday 8th June – Sunday 11th June at locations across the U.K. The call to arms will gather information about the variety and abundance of intertidal species living on our rocky seashores.
The intertidal zone is the area between sea and land. It is a very dynamic environment because of the twice-daily ebb and flow of the tides.
Habitats in this zone can range from rockpools to mudflats to sandy beaches, which means that many types of marine animals can often be found there, from starfish and limpets to crabs and mussels – as well as different types of seabirds and in some locations, marine mammals.
The creatures being surveyed are often delicate and vulnerable to damage hence the need for formal training to be involved in this volunteer event.
The CoCoast partnership involves Hull, Portsmouth, and Bangor, Universities the Scottish Association of Marine Science, the Marine Biological Association of the UK and the Marine Conservation Society (MCS). Along with Earthwatch Institute, the Natural History Museum, Northumberland Wildlife Trust, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) and the North West Coastal Forum.
Dr Leonie Richardson, CoCoast Project Officer at the Marine Conservation Society, says:
Our shores are home to a wide range of fascinating species, but we’d like to know more about where they live and in what numbers they occur. This valuable information will help develop a baseline against which we can track changes in species over time, but to achieve data collection at this scale, we really need the enthusiasm and dedication of our CoCoast volunteers.”
CoCoast was launched last year and already thousands of volunteers have joined in, learning about the UK’s marine life, and playing an important role in helping to fill knowledge gaps about how marine organisms and coastal habitats are responding to increased sea temperatures and other factors associated with global climate change.
Most of us are aware of the need to cut carbon emissions to help stop global warming. The oceans act as the largest carbon sink in the world. A very large proportion of carbon dioxide is stored “safely” in vegetation, algae, and coral living under the sea. As such the health of the ocean and it’s organisms is not to be underestimated. Both land and sea have complicated carbon cycles which help carbon sequestration (store the carbon dioxide) and helpfully ensure it is not present in too dangerously high a proportion in the air we breathe that is so essential for our health. This sequestering happens in both land (vegetation, soil etc) and sea.
A study led by the U.K. Met Office‘s Hadley Centre; “High sensitivity of global warming to land carbon cycle processes.” used a global climate model to study potential carbon cycle feedbacks on land. Carbon cycle feedback refers to the interaction between temperature change, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and the carbon cycle by which carbon is exchanged within the natural world. The results were “significantly larger than previously estimated”. The feedbacks seemed to be large enough to add as much as a few hundred parts per million to carbon dioxide levels in the year 2100 as compared to the no-land feedback case and this against moderate carbon dioxide emissions. According to the study, this could add as much as 1 centigrade more to total global warming. Oceans also have similar feedback processes that may threaten the net uptake of carbon dioxide over time. For example, existing global warming is driving ocean stratificationo. This is where the ocean forms relatively distinct layers. This layering reduces the ability of the oceans to take up carbon dioxide. Other threats to the ocean and indirectly to the air that we breathe include acidification (the ongoing increase in the pH of the Earth’s oceans caused by the uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Around a third of the carbon dioxide from human activity released into the atmosphere dissolves into the ocean, lakes, and rivers. Oceans are unable to absorb all of the carbon dioxide released from the current burning of fossil fuels.
Oceans also have similar feedback processes that may threaten the net uptake of carbon dioxide over time. For example, existing global warming is driving ocean stratification. This is where the ocean forms relatively distinct layers. This layering reduces the ability of the oceans to take up carbon dioxide. Other threats to the ocean, and then indirectly to the air that we breathe, include deoxygenation and acidification (the ongoing increase in the pH of the Earth’s oceans caused by the uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Acidification can lead to many plants and animals no longer being able to survive tougher conditions.
Around a third of the carbon dioxide from human activity released into the atmosphere dissolves into the ocean, lakes, and rivers. Oceans it seems are unable to absorb all of the carbon dioxide released from the current burning of fossil fuels. A study in Nature Magazine , suggests that the ocean is becoming less efficient as a carbon sink than before, being nearly 10% less efficient since the year 2000. The study which was led by Columbia University oceanographer, Samar Khatiwala, measured how much human-caused carbon dioxide emissions have dissolved in the oceans since 1765 and identified this particularly striking drop since 2000.
Understanding the threats to our oceans has become an urgent priority. Studying and monitoring the changing distribution of species using citizen science projects such as CoCoast will help contribute to the overall picture of the health and diverse ecology of the ocean. People really can make a difference.
For details of future training or to sign up for the mail list about the project please visit the Capturing Our Coast website.
If you are a local naturalist/birdwatcher/beachcomber/surfer/walker and like taking photographs and making observations about nature, why not also share your nature spotting on Swansea News Network‘s community journalism platform or write about it and post an article yourself?Contact:firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
References and some further reading:
‘High sensitivity of future global warming to land carbon cycle processes’. Ben B B Booth, Chris D Jones, Mat Collins, Ian J Totterdell, Peter M Cox, Stephen Sitch, Chris Huntingford, Richard A Betts, Glen R Harris and Jon Lloyd Published 11 April 2012 • 2012 IOP Publishing Ltd
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