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April 13
1935 - Gladys Carter convicted of manslaughter in fatal shooting of Frances Walker, of the Placerita Walkers [story]
Gladys Carter


Take a Hike | Commentary by Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel
| Sunday, May 1, 2016
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DianneErskineHellrigelJust as we sit somewhat passively watching the Great Barrier Reef floundering in distress, a new reef is discovered.

Ninety-five percent of the Great Barrier Reef is turning white and yellow, which happens when ocean temperatures increase. This is the most severe bleaching of the coral we have ever seen in the history of the reef. When coral becomes stressed like this, living algae are driven out, causing the coral to calcify, turning it yellow and white. This is due to the current El Nino-La Nina weather cycle.

Thus, the 1,200 miles of the Great Barrier Reef could be placed on the endangered list and might soon be a thing of the past.

As we see the possibility of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia beginning to die off, a new reef, comprised mostly of algae, coral and sponges, has just been discovered at the mouth of the Amazon River – the largest river in the world.

News of this discovery was made April 22-25. This reef was previously unknown because the muddy waters expelled by the Amazon River kept the newly found reef hidden. It is 600 miles long, stretching from French Guiana to Maranhao State in Brazil.

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Usually, when a river discharges fresh water into the ocean, it creates plumes, or gaps, in a reef. So, finding this reef at the mouth of the Amazon was usual and unexpected.

Thus far, with only 10 percent of the reef having been explored, 60-plus sponges, 73 species of fish, spiny lobsters, sea stars and other species have been identified within the exotic ecosystem housed within the reef. About half of the sponges are new species that have yet to be named and classified.

Muddy water is usually a deadly issue with coral reefs, but apparently the species on this reef have learned to thrive under these conditions.

When fresh water is expelled into the ocean, it affects salinity, PH, light penetration and sedimentation. As you move north along the reef where there is less light, life changes to mostly sponges and similar reef creatures. These areas are less abundant and without great diversity of creatures.

In the southern region, where there is more light, there is more diversity of life, and there is more food available, delivered by the outpouring of the river.

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The unfortunate part of this great discovery is that it faces multiple new environmental challenges to survive, including new and growing oil production that is practically on top of the reef. There are 60 more oil drilling areas slated to begin production soon.

Additional stress factors to this new reef could include climate change leading to warmer waters followed by considerable coral bleaching, and acidification similar to that which is causing the Great Barrier Reef to bleach out and possibly die off. In addition, things like deforestation of the Amazon rainforest could have a negative impact on the reef, as well as increased climate change.

Human impact alone could cause the downfall of this fragile eco-system.

 

Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel is executive director of the Community Hiking Club and president of the Santa Clara River Watershed Conservancy. Contact Dianne through communityhikingclub.org or at zuliebear@aol.com.

 

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