Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Pollution forms an invisible barrier for marine life

Date:
March 10, 2011
Source:
University of Hawaii at Manoa
Summary:
Researchers in Hawaii have examined the genetic structure of a common, non-harvested sea star using a spatially explicit model to test whether the largest sewage discharge and urban runoff sources were affecting the genetic structure of this species. They found that these large pollution sources are not only increasing genetic differentiation between populations (presumably by limiting the dispersal of larvae between them) but also decreasing the genetic diversity of populations closest to them.

The sea star Patiria miniata.
Credit: J. Puritz

Over 50 percent of the population in the United States and over 60 percent in the world live in coastal areas. Rapidly growing human populations near the ocean have massively altered coastal water ecosystems.

Related Articles


One of the most extensive human stressors is the discharge of chemicals and pollutants into the ocean. In the Southern California Bight, more than 60 sewage and urban runoff sources discharge over 1 billion gallons of liquid on a dry day with the two largest sources of contaminants being sewage from municipal treatment plants and urban runoff from highly modified river basins.

These discharges transport large loads of known and unknown contaminants including heavy metals, chlorinated hydrocarbons, petroleum hydrocarbons, nutrients, and bacteria, that have shown to be toxic to marine life, including both adult and larval (early development) stages. Most marine organisms such as sea stars (starfish) do not move among locations as adults; instead juveniles swim in the plankton before settling onto the sea floor and growing into a sedentary adult. Despite the known toxicity of terrestrial discharge, no one had investigated if it is limiting dispersal of marine larvae between populations along urban coastal areas.

Researchers at UH Mānoa's Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) examined the genetic structure of a common, non-harvested sea star using a spatially explicit model to test whether the largest sewage discharge and urban runoff sources were affecting the genetic structure of this species. They found that these large pollution sources are not only increasing genetic differentiation between populations (presumably by limiting the dispersal of larvae between them) but also decreasing the genetic diversity of populations closest to them. In short, human beings are directly affecting the ecological and evolutionary trajectory of a species that is relatively free of any direct human impacts.

UH Mānoa PhD student Jon Puritz led the investigation, and when asked about the recent discovery said, "This study changes the scale at which we thought human beings can affect non-harvested marine species. These results have the potential to change the way anthropogenic factors are incorporated into marine reserve design and ecosystem-based management." Co-author and HIMB assistant researcher Dr. Rob Toonen added, "This species was previously shown to have well-connected populations from Southern California to Southern Canada, but now we see that these urban runoff plumes in the Los Angeles area are a more significant hurdle for the microscopic larvae to cross than the remainder of the Pacific coast of the U.S."

The full research report by Puritz and Toonen is published in the online journal Nature Communications.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Hawaii at Manoa. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jonathan B. Puritz, Robert J. Toonen. Coastal pollution limits pelagic larval dispersal. Nature Communications, 2011; 2: 226 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms1238

Cite This Page:

University of Hawaii at Manoa. "Pollution forms an invisible barrier for marine life." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 March 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110310093800.htm>.
University of Hawaii at Manoa. (2011, March 10). Pollution forms an invisible barrier for marine life. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110310093800.htm
University of Hawaii at Manoa. "Pollution forms an invisible barrier for marine life." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110310093800.htm (accessed December 21, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 19, 2014) Millions of monarch butterflies begin to descend onto Mexico as part of their annual migration south. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) The new year is coming and nothing will energize you more for 2015 than protein-filled foods. Fitness and nutrition expert John Basedow (@JohnBasedow) gives his favorite high protein foods that will help you build muscle, lose fat and have endless energy. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Newsy (Dec. 19, 2014) A new study suggests a certain type of bird was able to sense a tornado outbreak that moved through the U.S. a day before it hit. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins