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African lake warmest in 1,500 years

Malaysia closes top dive sites hit by coral bleaching
Kuala Lumpur (AFP) July 22, 2010 - Malaysia has closed some of its top dive sites, on the tropical islands of Tioman and Redang, which have been hit by coral bleaching caused by global warming, officials said Thursday. The reefs, which attract some 500,000 tourists annually, will be off-limits to divers and snorkellers until the end of October in an attempt to relieve stress on the fragile marine ecosystems. "Nine diving sites out of 83 sites all over the country are closed," Shahima Abdul Hamid, the Marine Park Department's director of planning and management, told AFP. The closure would give the coral an opportunity to regenerate and would remove stress caused by tourism-related activities such as diving, the department said.

Coral bleaching, which can eventually cause corals to die, occurs when stresses including rising sea temperatures disrupt the delicate, symbiotic relationship between the corals and their host organisms. The department's director-general, Abdul Jamal Mydin, told reporters that in some areas 60-90 percent of the coral had been damaged, and that three entire islands around Tioman in Malaysia's southeast had been closed. "We are monitoring the extent of coral bleaching at all marine parks in the country. In the meantime, we are building artificial reefs and coral transplants," he was quoted as saying by the Star daily. The Malaysian Nature Society applauded the move to give the reefs a break. "In Malaysia, corals are facing a vast variety of threats even without the coral bleaching episodes," said the society's head of conservation Yeap Chin Aik. Apart from global warming, "the other threats are uncontrolled tourism, and land-based threats which result in pollution," he said.

Ocean 'blooms' start in winter, not spring
Corvallis, Ore. (UPI) Jul 21, 2010 - Ocean blooms of microscopic organisms that anchor the aquatic food chain start in winter, not during the heat and longer days of spring, scientists say. Scientists have long believed microscopic plant-like organisms called phytoplankton bloomed in temperate oceans as the spring sunshine heated surface waters, but new research says the explosive "blooms" have their beginnings in winter, reported Wednesday.

"The old theory made common sense and seemed to explain what people were seeing," Michael Behrenfeld, an Oregon State University botanist says. "But now we have satellite remote sensing technology that provides us with a much more comprehensive view of the oceans on literally a daily basis." Frequent and intense winter storms cause deep cold water to mix with biologically rich surface layers, Behrenfeld says, diluting the concentration of both the phytoplankton and the very tiny marine animals called zooplankton that feast on it. With the phytoplankton harder for zooplankton to find and eat, more of the organisms survive, he says, kick starting a growth curve leading to the massive spring "blooms" that can cover thousands of miles of ocean surface.
by Staff Writers
Providence, R.I. (UPI) Jul 21, 2010
Africa's Lake Tanganyika, the second-oldest and second-deepest lake on Earth, is warmer now than it has been in 1,500 years, scientists say.

Experiencing unprecedented warming during the last century, the lake's surface waters are the warmest on record, reported Wednesday.

The warmer waters are linked to a decrease in the lake's productivity, affecting fish stocks depended upon by millions of people in the region, researchers say.

Rift lakes like Tanganyika are created when two of Earth's continental plates move apart, expand and eventually become ocean basins over millions of years.

Lake Tanganyika is 13 million years old and nearly a mile deep. The world's deepest lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia, at 5,387 feet deep.

A high average temperature in the lake of 78.8 degrees Fahrenheit, measured in 2003, is the warmest the lake has been in a millennium and a half, LiveScience reported.

The high temperatures worry scientists looking at the estimated 10 million people who live near the lake and depend on fishing for their diet and livelihood.

"Our data show a consistent relationship between lake surface temperature and productivity (such as fish stocks)," said geologist Jessica Tierney of Brown University. "As the lake gets warmer we expect productivity to decline, and we expect that it will affect the fishing industry."

Lake Tanganyika is bordered by Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Zambia, four of the poorest countries in the world according to the U.N. Human Development Index.

earlier related report
German power plant testing CO2-scrubbing algae
Berlin (AFP) July 22, 2010 - Swedish energy group Vattenfall said it had launched a major pilot project Thursday using algae to absorb greenhouse gas emissions from a coal-fired power plant in eastern Germany.

The two-million-euro (2.6-million-dollar) trial run, which will continue until October 2011, in the depressed Lausitz mining region is one of several experimental attempts in the sector using algae to slash carbon dioxide output.

"The microalgae use climate-killing CO2 to create valuable biomass," the chairman of Vattenfall Europe Mining and Generation, Hartmuth Zeiss, said in a statement.

"Moreover the new technology will bring useful know-how to the Lausitz and increase its importance as a region for energy production."

Half the funding for the project called green MiSSiON (Microalgae Supported CO2 Sequestration in Organic Chemicals and New Energy) comes from Vattenfall, the other half from state and European Union subsidies.

The gas emitted at the Senftenberg brown-coal-fired plant is being pumped through a kind of broth using algae cultivated in 12 plastic tanks.

"The aim is to find out what kinds of algae work with brown coal dust and then, how economical this kind of CO2 reduction is," a spokesman for the Vattenfall division, Axel Happe, told AFP.

The biomass produced in the process can be used to produce biodiesel, to feed biogas power plants and as a nutritious supplement in fish food, Happe said.

He said it was difficult to quantify the amount of CO2 emissions normally emitted at Senftenberg or estimate how sizeable the reduction could be with the use of algae, which can scrub 10 times as much CO2 as land-based plants.

But he said the company aimed to publish initial results in late 2011.

A project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2008 found that diverting CO2 through an algae broth could reduce emissions by as much as 85 percent.

Vattenfall is the third biggest electricity provider in Germany.

Last month, European aerospace giant EADS unveiled what it called the world's first "hybrid" aircraft to run on algae fuel.

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Warmer Climate Entails Increased Release Of Carbon Dioxide By Inland Lakes
Uppsala, Sweden (SPX) Jul 22, 2010
Much organically bound carbon is deposited on inland lake bottoms. A portion remains in the sediment, sometimes for thousands of years, while the rest is largely broken down to carbon dioxide and methane, which are released into the atmosphere. Swedish researchers have shown that carbon retention by sediment is highly temperature-sensitive and that a warmer climate would result in increase ... read more

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