BBC takes Seagrass study and turns it into a bogus Global Warming horror story

I’ve been sent this by a colleague, hence it’s about a story from February (2012).

Back in February, the BBC ran this funny little story, with an obvious slant to the story. In the later stages of the report they have this little snippet. I have copied it EXACTLY as it is presented to the reader, with no amendment.

Changing times

But she warned that past success did not mean that seagrass species were well suited to cope with future changes to the marine environment

She pointed out that the clones of Posidonia oceanica revealed in the study had “crossed the past millenia… with seawater temperatures 10-15C lower than they are nowadays, and… the drop of the sea level 100m below its present day level about 10,000 years ago”.

I only mention this, because it is not what was said AT ALL. In the original article, which can be found and read here, the actual comments relate to … you know what, YOU read it.

The scenario of a km-range spread achieved exclusively through clonal growth requires that the clones reach a minimum age of about 12,500 years. Applying the same estimates to the genets shared between the two pairs of meadows, located 7 km apart between Formentera and Ibiza and 15 km apart around a cape in Formentera, yields a minimum age estimate between 80,000 and 200,000 years, projecting the origin of the clones well into the late Pleistocene. Although there is no biologically compelling reason to exclude this possibility, we consider it to be an unlikely scenario because local sea level changes during the last ice age (from −80,000 to −10,000 years) would place these sampling locations on land (the sea was 100 metres below its present level).

So what the actual piece says is that the idea the seagrass is “tens of thousands of years old” seems shaky, as it would have been on land 80-100,000 years ago. Which for seagrass, would be a real downer. But the BBC took that paragraph, removed sections and turned it into a warning piece about Global Warming.

What is mentioned in the article is that the seagrass is under threat due to

it may well be challenged by the unprecedented rate of environmental change imposed by current global climate change, including temperature increase and ocean acidification, and recent anthropogenic pressure on coastal areas resulting in changes in water quality, eutrophication*, and nutrient load, particularly in seagrass meadows.

is the ecosystem response to the addition of artificial or natural substances, such as nitrates and phosphates, through fertilizers or sewage, to an aquatic system.

The conclusions are not conclusive. It says that man’s activities are having an effect, but then points out that “further study” needs to be made in order to understand this more. Fair enough. We all love snorkelling in a blue ocean, right?

What does seem to be clear is that human activity in terms of, what I like to call, REAL pollution is having the major effect. This appears to be in the form of untreated waste being pumped into the ocean or chemical leaching into run-off water. The fact that nitrates and phosphates are named (albeit in an obfuscated way) is interesting.

But all of this should be mitigated with technology, investment, policing and legislation and to be honest, the study doesn’t actually imply it’s the first and last word in  P. oceanica study.

My real objection is the way the BBC took the study, misquoted the words and re-framed it as a study on the dangers of “global warming”. This is further evidence that the BBC will turn any story, regardless of content, and twist it’s meaning to suite their own charter.

My conclusion – Stop dumping chemicals into the Ocean and expect them not to have an effect on the ecosystem. Does THAT sound more like an environmental position to you?

And while we are on the subject… wouldn’t the seagrass have ALREADY been through six major warming events over the last 10,000 years alone?


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