Categories
Ecology

The North Pacific Subtropical Gyre

In an oceanic gyre, wind is scarce and that fact in combination with high pressure weather structures greatly affects the ocean circulation in these areas. The biggest marine ecosystems are called subtropical gyres which make up approximately 40 percent of the globe’s surface (Macdonald, Morton and Johannessen). These enormous areas of gradually spiraling warm equatorial air tug winds and joining sea currents in. All of the matter located in a gyre exchanges and moves very slowly. In fact, sailors avoid these portions of the ocean altogether because there is very little wind for active sailing. These oceanic regions contain areas of dead calm in which no wind blows for many days. In these areas, surface chlorophyll thickness is low and plant and animal growth and is decreased as well. Because of the conditions, these areas tend to harbor tons of trash and debris. This trash upsets the entire planet, animals and people alike. How can we fix such a major issue?

The pollution in the sea is a huge concern for everybody. The North Pacific Gyre is huge region of slowly swirling, warm equatorial air which tugs in airstreams and converging sea currents. Gyres are discovered in all of the globe’s seas; and the garbage debris issue in the North Pacific Gyre tends to be a recurring issue throughout the gyres of the world. In a mere nine years, the North Pacific Gyre stretched about 10 times to 25 times quicker than prototypes of global warming anticipated (Davis, Rothstein and Dewar). Today the North Pacific Gyre is at least double the size of the state of Texas. This part of the sea has extended to the northeast into the eastern Pacific and areas of the Hawaiian archipelago as well (Moore).

Moreover, the pollution problem in the North Pacific Gyre is not only a problem specific to that oceanic area. The problem places other habitats in danger as well, and other parts of the ocean are already getting pollution from the North Pacific Gyre. Wildlife is greatly affected by the trash in the ocean. Some of these species comprise of the vulnerable Green Sea Turtle, the vanishing Hawaiian Monk Seal, endangered Nihoa Finches, endangered Nihoa Millerbirds, the Laysan Duck, and other seabirds like the Laysan Albatross. In addition, countless species of plants including the Pritchardia Palms, and numerous other species of arthropods are threatened by pollution as well (Moore).

Researchers reveal that a vast ninety percent of all trash floating in planet earth’s seas is plastic. For instance, in the year 2006, United Nations environment researchers projected that nearly every square mile of the ocean contained at least 46,000 fragments of floating plastic (Macdonald, Morton and Johannessen). The surface layer of the ocean contains fragments of plastic products, heaps of abandoned drift nets, countless plastic bags, packing straps, along with usual household items such as soap, electronics, vehicle tires and deodorant packaging. One particular alleged plastic bag dumping was assumed to have covered about ten miles of the ocean’s surface. Ninety percent of the plastic waste currently in the North Pacific Gyre has natural degradable cycles which are not completely understood. However, the breakdown of these plastics likely range from 50 to 500 years; plastic items around 50 years old have already been discovered in the North Pacific Gyre (Macdonald, Morton and Johannessen).

Great amounts of the trash in the ocean have accumulated expectedly from events and activities. For example, cruise ship crews, sailors, yachtsmen, passengers, and even merchant marine personnel sporadically and nonchalantly throw undesirable items overboard. Even unnoticed winds blow garbage and light-weight objects from the decks of ships and boats into the sea. Other garbage derives from the land. Manufacturing waste and human unawareness places plastics into local water settings. Then, streams and rivers carry plastic waste to the beaches and oceans. These events might be considered trivial if considered one by one, but they are devastatingly horrible when their continuous effects are considered.

A large concern of the pollution in the North Pacific Gyre is the devastation inflicted upon the wildlife. Furthermore, the effects don’t merely subside at the beach. The pollution and waste makes its way to the human dinner table as well. This is an issue that concerns all of mankind.

Unfortunately, there is no existing legal authority which is responsible for the North Pacific Gyre trash problem. Every piece of plastic produced throughout time currently exists in one form, and much of it is quickly and progressively accumulating in the oceans. Some portions of the North Pacific Gyre actually contain more plastic than organic organisms. Is there a way to clean up the North Pacific Gyre? How can we prevent this problem from growing more out of control?

For starters, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States is currently searching for methods to eliminate debris without killing living organisms and destroying the habitat. As an organization from the United States, NOAA’s attention exists in the influence of this problem on the outer Hawaiian Islands as well as the National Marine Sanctuary. However, The North Pacific Subtropical Convergence seems to be the responsibility of the Hawaiian archipelago. This area tends to be inflicted dramatically because trash concentrates over numerous years due to convergence.

Although the clean-up of this issue is necessary, there are things that we can do as citizens to help eliminate this problem as well. This world issue highlights the necessity to reduce the use of plastic in our lives. This is something that can be done on a personal level. Try getting paper instead of plastic bags in the grocery store checkout. Or better yet, bring your own canvas totes! Use reusable water bottles and glasses instead of drinking from plastic bottles. By foods in glass jars instead of plastic jars. The large scale issue in the North Pacific Gyre is the consequence of the plastic used and irresponsibly discarded in millions of individual lives around the world. Raise awareness on the issue.

The beautiful Maui is one of the most gorgeous tourist escapes in the world, and sits nearly one thousand miles from the closest border of the North Pacific Gyre and its massive trash patch. Ninety percent of the garbage in the world’s oceans is plastic. The North Pacific Gyre tends to harbor tons of trash and debris. This trash upsets the entire planet, animals and people alike. What will you do about it?

 

Works Cited

Corno, Guido, et al. “Assessing Primary Production Variability in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre: A Comparision of Fast Repetition Rate Fluorometry and 14C Measurments.” Journal of Phycology (2006): 51-60. Print.

Davis, Xujing Jia, et al. “Numerical Investigations of Seasonal and Interannual Variability of North Pacific Subtropical Mode Water and Its Implications for Pacific Climate Variability.” Journal of Climate (2011): 2648-2665. Print.

Eiler, Alexander, et al. “Dynamics of the SAR11 bacterioplankton lineage in relation to environmental conditions in the oligotrophic North Pacific subtropical gyre.” Environmental Microbiology (2009): 2291-2300. Print.

Macdonald, Robie W., Brian Morton and Sophia C. Johannessen. “A review of marine environmental contaminant issues in the North Pacific: The dangers and how to identify them.” Environmental Reviews (2005): 103-139. Print.

Moore, Charles. “Trashed.” Natural History (2005): 46-51. Print.

 

 

Categories
Ecology

Organic Foods vs. Conventional Foods

 

Organic foods are foods that are healthy because they lack the chemicals that many other foods have. According to the USDA, “Organic is a labeling term that indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used (USDA, 2013).” According to mainstream media, organic foods are foods that are foods that are agriculturally processed and grown according to specific guidelines by the USDA (Organic Foods). Often they are also referred to as natural foods (Organic Foods). Though the first part of the definition is similar to the USDA’s definition, the natural foods part can be misleading. Products must be 95% organic to use this term, whereas natural foods can be naturally in only a small way, such as “hormone free” when using this term (Staff, 2012). Natural foods are cannot have artificial colors, artificial flavors, preservatives, or any other artificial ingredient, but animals can still be given antibiotics and growth hormones (Organic Foods).

Organic farming and conventional farming are very different. Conventional farmers use chemical fertilizers, synthetic insecticides, synthetic herbicides, and also gives animals antibiotics, growth hormones, and medications. (Staff, 2012). Organic farmers use natural fertilizers, pesticides from natural sources, environmentally

-generated plant-killing compounds, rotate crops, hand weed, and only give animals organic feed, and access to the outdoors (Staff, 2012). This would be safer for the environment because organic farmers are not introducing chemicals to the soil, plants, animals, or air. The chemicals used by conventional farmers could be harmful to all of these areas.

 

It is very controversial as to whether organic food is more nutritious than food produced using conventional means. According to the Organic Food Help Guide, it is unclear. There are some studies that suggest organically grown fruits vegetables may have a slightly higher Vitamin C content, some trace minerals, and antioxidant phytonutrients, but other studies have found no nutritional differences between organic and conventional foods (Organic Foods). The benefit of organic foods however, is that there contain fewer pesticides, it is often fresher, organic farming is better environmentally, and organically raised animals are not given antibiotics, growth hormones, or fed animal byproducts (Organic Foods). So there is not really any significant research proving that organic food is more nutritious than conventional foods.

However, there is information regarding whether organic foods is safe for human health and the environment. Pesticides matter because children and pregnant women are more vulnerable to pesticide exposure (Conflict in the workplace, 2012). Also most of us have an accumulated build up of pesticides that medical professionals feel could lead to headaches, birth defects, and added strain on the immune system (Organic Foods). In regard to antibiotics fed to conventionally raised animals, this helps develop antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria. Though not necessarily more nutritious, organic food is safer for human consumption than genetically modified foods. It is also safer for the environment in that harmful chemicals are not used in organic farmer. These chemicals pollute the soil, water, and air that they come into contact with (Organic Foods).

The benefits of locally grown produce are that locally grown food travels fewer miles saving energy costs and valuable non-renewable resources (Pijai, 2013). The food is fresher, and fresh food loses fewer nutrients (Pijai, 2013). It lasts longer because it was picked more recently (Pijai, 2013). It benefits the environment and wildlife in the area (Pijai, 2013).

While visiting the local grocery store and comparing prices, on average organic foods cost approximately 25% more than conventional foods, this is true of fruits, vegetables, and meats. There are many reasons why this food is more expensive. It is more laborious for the farmers to farm organic foods (Organic Foods). Due to the lack of chemicals used in the process, the farmers spend more time cultivating the food. It is also expensive to maintain the certification and status of organic (Organic Foods). The organic feed for animals is more costly, also. Other reasons include are smaller which means fixed costs and overhead is spread over less product as well as the smaller farms not qualifying for government subsidies (Organic Foods).

There are ways of keeping the personal costs lower, however. Shopping at local farmers markets can be more cost efficient (Organic Foods). This keeps the overhead cost of the grocery store away from the produce they you buy. Community Supported Agricultural Farms allow an individual or family to join and purchase shares of the product in bulk (Organic Foods). Other ways to keep costs down are to buy in season, shop around, and remember that organic does not always mean more nutritious.

While researching this information, I found it compelling enough for me to make changes in my food purchases. Though organic foods may not necessarily mean more nutritious, it is important to consider other factors. It is very important that food should be developed in an environmentally healthy way. Chemicals that are used in conventional farming are not natural and have negative effects on the environment. Also, the pesticides that are used in conventional farming can be harmful to the body. Organic farming is a more natural process that could be safer in the long run.

References

Organic Foods. (n.d.). Retrieved April 27, 2013, from Helpguide.org: http://www.helpguide.org

Pijai, E. I. (2013). Benefits of Locally Grown Produce. Retrieved April 26, 2013, from Super Kids Nutrition: http://www.superkidsnutrition.com

Staff, M. C. (2012, September 7). Organic Foods: Are they safe? More Nutritious. Retrieved April 27, 2013, from Mayo Clinic.

USDA. (2013, February 5). Retrieved April 27, 2013, from National Organic Program.

 

 

 

 

Categories
Ecology

Rainforest Conservation

The rainforests constitute some of the most resource-rich land on the planet, yet some of the residents of various countries are constantly launching attacks on it.  These wooded regions are inhabited by approximately 2/3 of all plant and animal species that reside on land, as well as millions of people who need them for survival; the ancient forests that remain are among the most diverse ecosystems known to science (Greenpeace, 2013.) This paper will discuss the tremendous value of the rainforests, economic, scientific, and educational, the threats to their survival posed by various elements, and the solutions that are available to ensure that these lands remain protected from exploitation and destruction.

Categories
Ecology

Environmental and Sustainability Issues

The basis of most environmental problems confronting the globe today can be directly or indirectly traced to human activity on the planet. For instance, waste leading to water pollution has resulted in concerns about scarcity of drinking water (Vercillo.) Air pollution is a result of industrial practices, such as the use of air polluting chemicals in the dry cleaning process, and driving automobiles rather than walking or riding bicycles. In addition, toxic waste causes pollution of air, water, and land. Collectively, many of these factors, especially gas emissions, have contributed to climate change, which is an extremely grave threat that can be reduced and eliminated to some degree if people would simply learn how to take preventive measures and adhere to them.