Showing posts with label sustainability. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sustainability. Show all posts

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Still feel unhappy with the Turnbull Government's policies on underground, land surface and marine waters? So you should


“Dead zones are hypoxic (low-oxygen) areas in the world's oceans and large lakes, caused by "excessive nutrient pollution from human activities coupled with other factors that deplete the oxygen required to support most marine life in bottom and near-bottom water.” [US National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration]

Every Northern Hemisphere Spring this dead zone occurs in the Gulf of Mexico and increases in size over time.



It is only one of more than 400 hypoxic areas world-wide which were mapped in 2008.


Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), Andrew H. Altieri et al, 2017, Tropical dead zones and mass mortalities on coral reefs:

Oxygen-starved coastal waters are rapidly increasing in prevalence worldwide. However, little is known about the impacts of these “dead zones” in tropical ecosystems or their potential threat to coral reefs. We document the deleterious effects of such an anoxic event on coral habitat and biodiversity, and show that the risk of dead-zone events to reefs worldwide likely has been seriously underestimated. Awareness of, and research on, reef hypoxia is needed to address the threat posed by dead zones to coral reefs.

Degradation of coastal water quality in the form of low dissolved oxygen levels (hypoxia) can harm biodiversity, ecosystem function, and human wellbeing. Extreme hypoxic conditions along the coast, leading to what are often referred to as “dead zones,” are known primarily from temperate regions. However, little is known about the potential threat of hypoxia in the tropics, even though the known risk factors, including eutrophication and elevated temperatures, are common. Here we document an unprecedented hypoxic event on the Caribbean coast of Panama and assess the risk of dead zones to coral reefs worldwide. The event caused coral bleaching and massive mortality of corals and other reef-associated organisms, but observed shifts in community structure combined with laboratory experiments revealed that not all coral species are equally sensitive to hypoxia. Analyses of global databases showed that coral reefs are associated with more than half of the known tropical dead zones worldwide, with >10% of all coral reefs at elevated risk for hypoxia based on local and global risk factors. Hypoxic events in the tropics and associated mortality events have likely been underreported, perhaps by an order of magnitude, because of the lack of local scientific capacity for their detection. Monitoring and management plans for coral reef resilience should incorporate the growing threat of coastal hypoxia and include support for increased detection and research capacity.

Anyone still in favour of allowing an expansion of coal mining in the Galilee Basin, Queensland?

Anyone still comfortable with the amount of agricultural/industrial run-off into the Great Barrier Reef, marine protected areas and Australian coastal waters, which is allowed under state and federal policies?

It’s not just our rivers and aquifers which are suffering from political inaction and vested interest greed.

BACKGROUND

The Australian Government’s OzCoasts website states:

A reduction in dissolved oxygen concentrations is amongst the most important effects of eutrophication on aquatic organisms [4]. Hypoxia can cause direct mortality, reduced growth rates and altered behaviour and distributions of fish [4] and other organisms. In addition, bottom-water hypoxia can interact with elevated water temperatures at the surface to produce a "temperature-oxygen squeeze" effect, which can greatly reduce the amount of summer habitat available for some species [12]. Eggs and larvae of fish (and crustaceans) may be particularly susceptible to this effect because these life history stages are less able to avoid unfavourable conditions, and because they live in near shore areas, such as estuaries, where too-high water temperatures and too-low oxygen conditions often occur [5]. Changes in fish assemblages and crustaceans in response to hypoxia and & anoxia can render these organisms more susceptible to fishing pressure, and can increase the abundance of non-targeted species in by-catch [4].

Dissolved oxygen status also influences the uptake or release of nutrients from sediment. When oxygen is depleted, the nitrification pathway is blocked, and efficiencies may be lowered. As a consequence, more nutrients (e.g. nitrogen and phosphorous) are released from the sediment in bio-available forms [7]. These nutrients help to sustain algal blooms, and therefore continue the supply organic matter to the sediments [7]. With organic matter (energy) diverted from invertebrate consumption to microbial decomposition, the natural pattern of energy flow is altered, and pelagic and opportunistic species are favoured [8]. Indeed, an increased ratio of planktivore:demersal fish biomass is an important effect of eutrophication [11]. Low bottom water oxygen concentrations are also conducive to the build-up of toxic compounds such as hydrogen sulfide and ammonia gas, which can also be harmful to benthic organisms and fish. Even short-lived anoxic events can cause the mass mortality of fish and benthic organisms [10].

Overall, anoxic and hypoxic events can cause large reductions in the abundance, diversity and harvest of fish in affected waters [4], and can contribute to an overall loss of bio-diversity[9]. However, the extent to which bottom water anoxia causes declines in overall fish production depends on a balanced between the negative and positive and effects of eutrophication in the full spectrum of habitats within the system [4]……

Major research institutions, universities and government (local and State) agencies gather oxygen data for specific research studies. Some information on anoxic and hypoxic events in Australian coastal waterways was compiled during the National Land & Water Resources Audit. In most cases, no data was available. However, localised or short-lived periods of hypoxia were reported in the Derwent and Huon estuaries (TAS) and in the Tuggerah Lakes (NSW). Prolonged and extensive anoxia is experienced in the Gippsland Lakes.

Note:

Anoxia is an extreme form of hypoxia.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Politicians and Water: The Murray Darling Basin Scandal Fallout


The ABC Four Corners program “Pumped” which was screened on 24th July has illustrated how important scrutiny of the establishment is to the rule of law in our democracy. It also illustrates why the ABC is under threat from many politicians and other powerful players who see any effective scrutiny of their operations as an intolerable threat to their way of doing business, a way that is against both the general community interest as well as the national interest.
The outrage from the revelations of water theft and other illegality by big irrigators in the northern NSW area of the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) has increased over the days since the program was screened.  Politicians have been left scrambling and forced to change tack following the strength of the reaction and the condemnation of the inadequacy of their initial responses.
In NSW the Nationals Minister for Primary Industry, Niall Blair, was forced to change from an internal inquiry conducted by his department to an independent inquiry.  Blair was excessively optimistic in thinking that such an internal inquiry would be acceptable given that Four Corners had revealed a questionable relationship between Gavin Hanlon[1], his department’s Deputy Director General (Water), and big irrigators in the upper MDB.  In addition there was the important question of why the department had failed to act on departmental compliance officers’ reports of licence breaches and meter tampering. And there were questions about the role of the former water minister Kevin Humphries in dealing with the large irrigators.
The NSW Opposition has also taken action referring both the former Nationals water minister Kevin Humphries (Member for Barwon) and a senior bureaucrat (presumably Gavin Hanlon) to ICAC.
The Federal Government reaction was initially almost dismissive.  The Minister for Water Resources, Nationals Leader Barnaby Joyce[2], as well as attempting to downplay the water theft by comparing it to cattle rustling, claimed that it was a matter for NSW and that there was no need for Federal Government involvement. Billions of dollars of taxpayer funds have been used to buy back water for environmental flows and instead of being used for this purpose this water has gone to the big irrigators in the upper Barwon-Darling.  Presumably the taxpayer funds had come from the Federal Government. This would surely make it a matter of very great interest to this government which, seeing it is so concerned about budget repair, would surely be appalled at the waste of billions of taxpayer dollars.
Joyce’s totally inadequate initial response was compounded shortly afterwards with what he said in a speech to irrigators in a hotel at Shepparton, a speech which was recorded by one of those attending.
Joyce said, "We have taken water, put it back into agriculture, so we could look after you and make sure we don't have the greenies running the show basically sending you out the back door, and that was a hard ask.”
"A couple of nights ago on Four Corners, you know what that's all about? It's about them trying to take more water off you, trying to create a calamity. A calamity for which the solution is to take more water off you, shut more of your towns down."
Even a dinosaur like Barnaby Joyce should have been aware that anyone carrying a smartphone has the capacity to secretly record what others are saying.  In the political sphere we have seen how damaging this can be in the cases of Christopher Pyne and One Nation’s James Ashby. The Shepparton recording has certainly damaged Joyce and has added volume to the calls for him to be sacked from the Water portfolio.  Unfortunately, this is unlikely to happen as the Prime Minister has enough problems in his own party without alienating Joyce and the Nationals.
By Sunday 30th the scandal became a matter that the Federal Government had to act upon despite Joyce’s earlier labelling it a state matter. The Federal solution was for the Murray Darling Basin Authority to carry out an independent basin-wide review into compliance with state-based regulations governing water use. The Authority is to report by 15th December 2017.  The Government saw this review as complementing the other investigations of the Four Corners allegations.
However, this is a case of far too little too late.  The MDB Authority is scarcely a body able to conduct an independent review of what has obviously been happening under its watch.  Furthermore a cynic would see the reporting date of 15th December, just before the Christmas holiday season, as a typical government move to ensure that the review report would receive minimal attention and be forgotten about over the holiday break.
The Federal Opposition, like its NSW state counterpart, has also taken action on the scandal.  It requested that the Auditor-General expand his current audit of the Federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.  The Auditor-General will now include how the federal department is monitoring the performance of NSW under the National Partnership Agreement on Implementing Water Reform in the MDB relevant to the protection and use of environmental water.
Unsurprisingly, the South Australian Government, which has long been concerned about the lack of water reaching the end of the Murray-Darling system, was outraged by the allegations.  It is calling for a judicial inquiry, a much stronger investigation than those arranged by NSW and the Federal Government.  SA senators from Labor, the Greens, the Nick Xenophon Party and the Conservatives have joined their state government in calling for a judicial inquiry.
This scandal has a long way to run yet.  There are major questions to be answered about the National Party – both state and federally - and its relationship with the big irrigators and its apparent indifference to the needs of other irrigators further down the system.  There is also the question of its influence on the workings of the NSW Department of Agriculture.   And just what role has it had in limiting the effectiveness of – perhaps even of sabotaging - the Murray Darling Basin Plan?
For both Federal and NSW state Liberal leaders there is the question about the advisability of having resource management portfolios in the hands of Nationals and of putting both Agriculture and Water in the same portfolio.  Each of these governments has a very poor environmental record.  What has been happening on the Barwon-Darling reinforces the view that keeping “in good” with the Nationals is far more important for the  Liberals than ensuring that environmental policies are in the best long-term interests of the state and nation.
[1] Gavin Hanlon joined the NSW Department of Primary Industries in December 2014.  Prior to this he had been Managing Director of Goulburn Murray Water since 2011.
[2] The water portfolio was removed from the Environment Department and allocated to Joyce as a result of the agreement with the Liberals in 2015  following  Malcolm Turnbull becoming Prime Minister.

Hildegard
Northern Rivers
2nd August 2017

Guest Speak is a North Coast Voices segment allowing serious or satirical comment from NSW Northern Rivers residents. Email northcoastvoices at gmail dot com dot au to submit comment for consideration.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

A sustainable life rocks! Local award nominations open in the Clarence Valley


A sustainable  life  rocks!

Clarence Valley Council  media release, 7 April 2016:

Living Sustainably Awards now open

Residents or organisations who contribute significantly to a more sustainable Clarence Valley are invited to apply for the council’s annual Living Sustainably Awards.

Nominations are now open, with four award categories for individuals, businesses, education and community groups who enhance environmental, economic and social sustainability.

Mayor Richie Williamson said council was looking for nominees who excelled in any aspect of sustainability such as those who reduced energy and water consumption, acknowledged the significance of local culture, provided sustainable recreation, environmental conservation, sustainable economic development, showed leadership within the community and developed innovative ideas.

Nominations are due by 4pm Monday, May 23, 2016 and will be judged by Council’s Climate Change Advisory Committee. The winners will be presented with their awards at a ceremony during Local Government Week, August 1-7, 2016.

Nomination forms are available at
www.clarence.nsw.gov.au, or can be collected from the Council offices at 2 Prince Street, Grafton, and 50 River Street, Maclean.

For further information please contact Suzanne Lynch, on 6643 0200 or email 
suzanne.lynch@clarence.nsw.gov.au.