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Climate Good News

Around the world people are taking the initiative to mitigate climate change.

Repairing Systems to Save the Fish: Two Good News Stories

Collated by The League of Women Voters of Bellingham Whatcom County, these two stories give us hope that the enormous fish populations that have been decimated by human actions may be restored. In the Northwest, salmon and cod runs are beginning to revive, and, in the southern hemisphere, new technologies are finding coral reefs that are still pristine and can be protected.

Saving Migratory Fish, One Culvert at a Time

Millions of barriers underlie American roadways, blocking the passage of fish. The United States is working to fix them.

Every year, hundreds of muscular, sea-bright fish — chum salmon, Chinook, coho, steelhead — push into the Columbia River from the Pacific Ocean, swim over 200 kilometers upstream, and turn left into Hardy Creek. They wind through rocky shallows shaded by alder and willow, cold water passing over flared gills. Plump with milt and eggs, they pump their tails furiously, striving for the graveled spawning grounds in southern Washington state where they’ll complete their life’s final, fatal mission.

And then they hit the railroad.

In the early 1900s, Hardy Creek was throttled by BNSF Railway, the United States’ largest freight railroad network. When the company built its Columbia River line, engineers routed Hardy Creek under the tracks via a culvert — a 2.5-meter-wide arch atop a concrete pad. The culvert, far narrower than Hardy Creek’s natural channel, concentrated the stream like a fire hose and blasted away approaching salmon. Over time, the rushing flow scoured out a deep pool, and the culvert became an impassable cascade disconnected from the stream below — a “perched” culvert, in the jargon of engineers.

It’s an obvious barrier,” says Peter Barber, manager of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe’s habitat restoration program. “A fish would be hard-pressed to navigate through that culvert.”

Culverts, the unassuming concrete and metal pipes that convey streams beneath human-made infrastructure, are everywhere, undergirding our planet’s sprawling road networks and rail lines. Researchers estimate that more than 200,000 culverts lie beneath state highways in California alone.

The problem for migratory fish is huge, but in the United States, massive funding from new federal grants in the Infrastructure Restoration Administration bill is pointing toward a more hopeful future.

The National Culvert Removal, Replacement, and Restoration Grant is an annual competitive grant program that awards funding for projects to replace, remove, and repair culverts or weirs in a way that meaningfully improves or restores fish passage for anadromous fish (fish born in freshwater who spend most of their lives in salt water and return to fresh water to spawn, such as salmon) and increases culvert and weir resilience to increased flooding events due to the impacts of climate change on weather and precipitation.”

Eligible applicants include state, local, and tribal governments. Eligible uses include projects that replace, remove, and repair culverts or weirs which would meaningfully improve or restore fish passage for anadromous fish, including the infrastructure facilitating fish passage around or over the weir and weir improvements.

One billion dollars has been budgeted to the National Culvert Removal, Replacement, and Restoration Grant. This program will be administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation in consultation with NOAA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Although the cost seems high, officials predict it will take even more funding to repair or rebuild all the culverts.

Saving the endangered orcas as well as our national fisheries seem well worth it.


Migratory Fish, One Culvert at a Time” by Ben Goldfarb, April 1, 2024: Goodnewsletter


New Technology Discovers More Coral Reefs

The saddest sight in the sea for many ocean lovers is the degradation of our coral reefs. Where once we snorkeled and scuba-dived in these colorful ocean forests populated by hundreds of rainbow-colored creatures, now we see, too often, the deathly, white honeycombed structure of a dying reef. So, it is very exciting that a new satellite imagery combined with AI just helped researchers find an extra 64,000 square kilometers of undiscovered coral reefs,

That means the world’s coral reefs are close to 25 percent larger than previously thought, and brings the size of the planet’s total coral reef ecosystems (critical for protecting marine life and coastlines from the impacts of climate change) to 348,000 square kilometers.

Previous searching methods made it harder to determine the extent of coral reefs — but thanks to high-resolution satellite data covering the entire world, researchers can see reefs as deep as 30 meters down and get much more accurate measurements.

This figure represents whole coral reef ecosystems, ranging from sandy-bottomed lagoons with a little coral, to coral rubble flats, to living walls of coral. These are the areas scuba divers and snorkelers like to explore.

Didn’t we already know where the world’s reefs are?

Well, the answer is no. Previously, we’ve had to pull data from many different sources, which made it harder to pin down the extent of coral reefs with certainty.

Scientists coupled this information with direct observations and records of coral reefs from over 400 individuals and organizations in countries with coral reefs from … all regions, such as the Maldives, Cuba and Australia.

To produce the maps, scientists used machine learning techniques to chew through 100 trillion pixels from the Sentinel-2 and Planet Dove CubeSat satellites to make accurate predictions about where coral is — and is not. The team worked with almost 500 researchers and collaborators to make the maps.

The result: the world’s first comprehensive map of coral reefs’ extent, and their composition, produced through the Allen Coral Atlas ( The maps are already proving their worth. Reef management agencies around the world are using them to plan and assess conservation work and threats to reefs.

These new maps have three levels of detail. The first is the most expansive — the entire coral reef ecosystem. Seen from space, it has light areas of coral fringed by darker deeper water. Then we have geomorphic detail, meaning what the areas within the reef look like. This includes sandy lagoons, reef crests exposed to the air at low tide, sloping areas going into deeper water and so on. Finally, there is fine detail of the benthic substrates, showing where you have areas dominated by coral cover.

Coral can’t grow on sand. Polyps have to attach to a hard surface such as rock before they can begin expanding the reef out of their limestone-secreting bodies.

Climate change is steadily heating up the sea and making it more acidic. Coral polyps can’t handle too much heat. These wonders of biodiversity are home to a quarter of the ocean’s species and it is no secret they are reeling.

Coral reefs are some of the most diverse and valuable ecosystems on Earth. This biodiversity is considered key to finding new medicines for the 21st century. Many drugs are now being developed from coral reef animals and plants as possible cures for cancer, arthritis, human bacterial infections, viruses, and other diseases.

Healthy coral reefs support commercial and subsistence fisheries as well as jobs and businesses through tourism and recreation.“Satellite imagery and AI help uncover an Ireland-sized addition to global coral reefs, according to new study.”

_________________________________________> (Goodnewsletter), 5/3/2024: This article by Mitchell Lyons and Stuart Phinn, from the University of Queensland, was originally published by The Conversation.

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