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December 5, 2011

Tweeting about tides

BY: Jocelyn Ruark



I love Twitter. Not only because I personally love to tweet, but because it’s an innovation that has changed the way we live and react.

Towards the beginning of the financial crisis, Northern Rock, the fifth-largest British lender, went to the Bank of England and asked for emergency support because its capital reserves did not cover the mass of mortgage-backed bonds it had sold to investors. Within minutes of the news being aired by the BCC, customers began logging on to Northern Rock’s website and withdrawing their cash. It was a modern day bank run.  As one reporter noted, “Never before had so many terrified consumers and investors seen a bank run in action, in real time. Technology was helping to spread the panic.” One of those technologies was Twitter.

Search “ocean,” “Baltic,” or “fish” on Twitter. Hardly any relevant information appears. 90% of tweets either make a metaphor about love, or recommend how to cook a lovely salmon dinner.

Want to know about the artisanal fleet? Follow Oceana Europe. Want to know if shrimps loose their eyes because of oil spil? Follow Oceana Europe. Want to know the number of tastebuds of a catfish? Follow Oceana Europe.

Today Oceana is tweeting about ocean tides. In the Baltic, there is a lack of tides – at most, they are only a few centimeters. The Sea is too small, and the opening to the North Sea is too narrow for the Baltic to be influenced by North Atlantic tides. The surrounding land interferes with the moon’s pull and the Earth’s tilt and prevents tides from occuring in the Baltic Sea.

The Baltic contains “dead zones” aka low oxygen areas. Partially due to the lack og of tides, these “dead zones,” and their denser oxygen-deplete water remain undisturbed along the sea floor. Therefore, the sea is highly stratified and the seafloor ecology differs from that of the nighboring Atlantic.

Many of the plants and animals in the Baltic have adapted to this unique environment, such as Baltic herring (which are smaller than Atlantic herring) and certain types of benthic fauna (which were originally a freshwater species).

These Baltic-specific species are threatened by the amount of eutrophication that occurs in the Baltic. Because of the strong vertical stratification and lack of tides, there is a slow renewal of water in the Sea. Once nutrients from eutrophication are discharged into the Baltic, they will remain there for a long time, sometimes decades. Large inputs of nitrogen, phosphorus, and carbon encourage the growth of phytoplankton biomass, which decrease light penetration through the water column, which causes a further decrease in oxygen levels.

According to the HELCOM Eutrophication Assessment Tool (HEAT), all 189 areas surveyed by HEAT in the Baltic are affected by eutrophication. 90% of the Baltic Proper is in HEAT’s “red zone,” meaning it’s severely affected. The Western Gotland Basin is 70% in the “red zone,” the Gulf of Gdansk is 80% in the “red zone,” etc.

The most immediate way to slow eutrophication is to discourage runoff of plant fertilizer and waste from being dumped into the Baltic. Oceana supports legislation that works to end this dumping. Follow Oceana on Twitter to show your support to stop eutrophication in the Baltic. If panic about the financial markets can spread like wild fire over the internet, maybe awareness about issues facing our oceans can too.