OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

marine science and the coast

Viruses associated with coral epidemic of “white plague”

CORVALLIS, Ore. – They call it the “white plague,” and like its black counterpart from the Middle Ages, it conjures up visions of catastrophic death, with a cause that was at first uncertain even as it led to widespread destruction – on marine corals in the Caribbean Sea.

Now one of the possible causes of this growing disease epidemic has been identified – a group of viruses that are known as small, circular, single-strand DNA (or SCSD) viruses. Researchers in the College of Science at Oregon State University say these SCSD viruses are associated with a dramatic increase in the white plague that has erupted in recent decades.

Prior to this, it had been believed that the white plague was caused primarily by bacterial pathogens. Researchers are anxious to learn more about this disease and possible ways to prevent it, because its impact on coral reef health has exploded.

“Twenty years ago you had to look pretty hard to find any occurrences of this disease, and now it’s everywhere,” said Nitzan Soffer, a doctoral student in the Department of Microbiology at OSU and lead author on a new study just published in the International Society for Microbial Ecology. “It moves fast and can wipe out a small coral colony in a few days.

“In recent years the white plague has killed 70-80 percent of some coral reefs,” Soffer said. “There are 20 or more unknown pathogens that affect corals and in the past we’ve too-often overlooked the role of viruses, which sometimes can spread very fast.”

This is one of the first studies to show viral association with a severe disease epidemic, scientists said. It was supported by the National Science Foundation.

Marine wildlife diseases are increasing in prevalence, the researchers pointed out. Reports of non-bleaching coral disease have increased more than 50 times since 1965, and are contributing to declines in coral abundance and cover.

White plague is one of the worst. It causes rapid tissue loss, affects many species of coral, and can cause partial or total colony mortality. Some, but not all types are associated with bacteria. Now it appears that viruses also play a role. Corals with white plague disease have higher viral diversity than their healthy counterparts, the study concluded.

Increasing temperatures that stress corals and make them more vulnerable may be part of the equation, because the disease often appears to be at its worst by the end of summer. Overfishing that allows more algae to grow on corals may help spread pathogens, researchers said, as can pollution caused by sewage outflows in some marine habitats.

Viral infection, by itself, does not necessarily cause major problems, the researchers noted. Many healthy corals are infected with herpes-like viruses that are persistent but not fatal, as in many other vertebrate hosts, including humans.

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OSU to host 20th annual National Ocean Sciences Bowl April 20-23

CORVALLIS, Ore. – High school teams from around the country will compete April 20-23 at Oregon State University in the finals of the National Ocean Sciences Bowl, an academic quiz-bowl style competition focusing on knowledge of issues relating to the world’s oceans. 

Competitors are the winning teams from 25 regional bowls held in February and include the first-place finishers at OSU’s regional contest, the Salmon Bowl. The winner of that bowl, hosted by the College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science, is Rockaway Beach’s Neah-Kah-Nie High School. A full list of competing teams is available here: http://bit.ly/2pBj5Kb.

This national competition, sponsored by the Consortium for Ocean Leadership based in Washington, D.C., is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. 

Students will be quizzed on their knowledge of ocean science and related issues, including a diverse range of scientific disciplines such as biology, chemistry, physics, geology, technology and policy. The theme for this year’s Finals is “Blue Energy: Powering the Planet with our Ocean.”

Designed to test students’ knowledge and encourage careers in ocean sciences, this year’s competition will cover basic ocean science questions such as “What effect does the El Niño Southern Oscillation have on the fishing industries in the Northern Hemisphere?” and explore topics relevant to the theme. Among them:

  • Technologies used to harness energy from waves, tides, currents, wind and other sources;
  • Challenges to implementing marine renewable energy;
  • Potential impacts of marine renewable energy on ecosystems and marine life;
  • Challenges of deploying, retrieving and maintaining ocean instruments and technologies;
  • Permits and regulatory policies;
  • Organizations and groups involved in marine renewable energy research and commercialization. 

Oregon State University is home to the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center, a consortium of universities, faculty and students that conducts research and tests technologies to harness ocean power.

The 25 teams convene on the evening of Thursday, April 20, for a career mentoring event and spend Friday on eight different marine science-focused field trips to the Oregon coast ahead of the weekend’s competition. 

The welcome and competition will begin at 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday in the LInC Room 128. The event concludes with the awards ceremony from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. This event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit nosb.org.

Major sponsors include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; the Office of Naval Research; Schwab Charitable Fund made possible by the generosity of Wendy and Eric Schmidt; Deerbrook Charitable Trust; Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement; National Aeronautics and Space Administration; Bureau of Ocean Energy Management; Shell; Eastman Foundation; Lockheed Martin; and Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation. A complete list of sponsors can be found here: http://nosb.org/about-nosb/sponsors/.

 


 

About National Ocean Sciences Bowl: The National Ocean Sciences Bowl (NOSB) is a program of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership based in Washington, D.C. Now in its 20th year, the NOSB inspires students to pursue a college degree and future career in the ocean sciences. Through this educational forum, the NOSB introduces students, teachers, schools, and communities to ocean sciences as an interdisciplinary field of study and a possible career path. Most high school students do not have the opportunity to study ocean science as part of their formal coursework, which makes the NOSB one of the only ways students gain exposure to this field. Many past NOSB participants have moved on to pursue college degrees and careers in ocean science, helping to solve the growing environmental, economic and security issues facing our ocean and planet. 

About Consortium for Ocean Leadership: The Consortium for Ocean Leadership (COL) is a Washington, D.C. nonprofit organization that represents the leading public and private ocean research education institutions, aquaria, and industry with the mission to shape the future of ocean science and technology. In addition to its advocacy role as the voice of the ocean research and technology community, COL manages a variety of community-wide research and education programs in areas of ocean observing, ocean exploration, and ocean partnerships.

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Allison Hays, 941-962-9266, ahays@oceanleadership.org; Flaxen Conway, 541-737-1339, fconway@coas.oregonstate.edu

OSU to host Marine Science Day on April 8

NEWPORT, Ore. – Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center will hold its annual Marine Science Day on Saturday, April 8, giving visitors an opportunity to see laboratories behind-the-scenes, interact with student scientists and learn more about current marine research.

The event is free and open to the public, and will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the center, located in Newport southeast of the Highway 101 bridge over Yaquina Bay. It will feature interactive, hands-on exhibits and opportunities to talk to researchers from OSU and other federal and state agencies.

The theme is “Celebrating Student Research” and student scientists will be among the researchers presenting exhibits on marine mammals, oyster aquaculture, ocean acidification, ocean noise, seagrass ecology, fisheries, deep sea vents and more. Visitors can learn about research diving with the OSU Dive Team, observe microscopic plankton, tour a genetics lab and hear about the NOAA Corps 100th year as a commissioned service.

Special activities for children will be offered by Oregon Sea Grant and the Oregon Coast Aquarium. The Oregon Coast STEM Hub and representatives from OSU and Oregon Coast Community College will also be available to engage K-12 students interested in pursuing marine studies.

Special events include:

  • A lecture at 2:30 p.m. by José R. Marín Jarrín, Charles Darwin Foundation, Galápagos, Ecuador, on “From Hatfield to the Charles Darwin Foundation: the importance of student research experiences.”
  • Opening celebration at 10:30 a.m. for the Experimental Seawater Facility, funded by the National Science Foundation.
  • A public feeding of the octopus Opal in the Visitors Center will be at 1 p.m.

Visitors may also learn about the progress of OSU’s Marine Studies Initiative, which seeks to host 500 students-in-residence in Newport by 2025.

“With a new teaching and research facility in the fundraising and design phase, Marine Science Day offers a great opportunity to understand why we are so excited about OSU’s Marine Studies Initiative,” said Bob Cowen, director of the Hatfield Marine Science Center.

“It is also a chance to learn about our scientists – who we are, what we do, and how we, as university, state and federal partners, work together and with communities to better understand and solve our marine and coastal challenges.”

More information on the event is available online at http://hmsc.oregonstate.edu/marinescienceday

 

Source: 

Maryann Bozza, 541-867-0234

maryann.bozza@oregonstate.edu

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Marine Science Day
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Corliss, OSU to commemorate 40th anniversary of hydrothermal vents discovery

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Forty years ago, a group of scientists led by Oregon State University oceanographer Jack Corliss discovered a unique colony of sea creatures living in the depths of the eastern Pacific Ocean in an area known as the Galapagos Rift.

There was no obvious source of light or food, yet clams, huge tube worms and other creatures were thriving. Their energy source turned out to be life-giving hydrothermal vents and the discovery revolutionized marine studies. 

This March 2-3, Oregon State University will celebrate the discovery with two presentations featuring Corliss, who is traveling from his home in Budapest, Hungary, to participate. The two-day commemorative event, which is free and open to the public, is called “OSU and Hydrothermal Vents: 40th Anniversary of the Discovery that Launched 1,000 Ships.”

“It was one of the biggest, most important discoveries by OSU scientists,” noted Martin Fisk, an OSU oceanographer who is helping coordinate the events. “Jack Corliss was designated by the National Science Foundation, which funded the research, as the leader of the submersible Alvin exploration, which descended into the depths of the Galapagos fracture zone, where the team discovered the vents and this unique biological community.” 

Robert Collier, a professor emeritus at OSU, was a participant on that 1977 expedition. “The discovery changed oceanography and spawned new fields of study, in everything from marine biology and chemistry to new approaches on the origin of life,” he said.

On Thursday, March 2, OSU will host three short lectures from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in the Learning Innovation Center, Room 210. They include:

  • Corliss and Collier will discuss the history of the discovery and the new fields of study it spawned;
  • Bill Chadwick, an OSU researcher at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, will describe new discoveries of hydrothermal vents in the western Pacific Ocean;
  • OSU oceanographer Andrew Thurber will explain how life at hydrothermal vents can influence global climate. 

On Friday, March 3, Corliss and others from the expedition will hold an open forum on the discovery that will be taped to help create an archive on its history. It will be held in Burt Hall Room 193 from 3:30 to 5 p.m.

Participating will be Lou Gordon, co-principal investigator on the expedition; Mitch Lyle, a graduate student with the late Jack Dymond; Collier, who was a grad student with John Edmond, also a co-principal investigator; and Corliss. 

During the 1977 discovery, the expedition scientists dubbed the hydrothermal vent community “The Garden of Eden” and used the mechanical arm of the Alvin to carefully collect samples of worms, mussels, clams and anemones. Some of those samples are still housed today at the Smithsonian Institution.

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Martin Fisk, 541-737-5208, mfisk@coas.oregonstate.edu

AAAS and Oregon State University announce 2016 Fellows

WASHINGTON D.C.— Three Oregon State University professors have been named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Election as an AAAS Fellow is an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers.

The OSU honorees are: Peter Clark, a distinguished professor of geosciences in the College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences; Alan Mix, a professor of geological oceanography in CEOAS; and Michael A. Osborne, a professor of history of science in the College of Liberal Arts.  

Clark and Mix were selected as part of the section geology and geography. Clark was elected for his seminal contributions toward understanding linkages among climate, ice sheets, and sea level over the past 100,000 years.

Mix was elected for distinguished contributions to the field of paleoceanography and paleoclimatology, particularly for improvement of proxy applications and understanding of the Quaternary ocean and climate dynamics.

Osborne was selected as part of the history and philosophy of science section. He was elected for distinguished contributions to the fields of the history of science and medicine with particular attention to the role of French colonialism and natural history.

This year 391 members have been awarded this honor by AAAS because of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications. The Fellows will be formally announced in the AAAS News & Notes section of the journal Science Nov. 25.

New Fellows will be presented with an official certificate and a gold and blue (representing science and engineering, respectively) rosette pin on Feb. 18, 2017, during the 2017 AAAS annual meeting in Boston, Massachusetts.

The tradition of AAAS Fellows began in 1874. Currently, members can be considered for the rank of Fellow if nominated by the steering groups of the Association’s 24 sections, or by any three Fellows who are current AAAS members or by the AAAS chief executive officer.

Fellows must have been continuous members of AAAS for four years by the end of the calendar year in which they are elected. Each steering group reviews the nominations of individuals within its respective section and a final list is forwarded to the AAAS Council, which votes on the aggregate list.

 


 

About the American Association for the Advancement of Science: AAAS is the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science (www.sciencemag.org) as well as Science Translational Medicine, Science Signaling, a digital, open-access journal, Science Advances, Science Immunology, and Science Robotics. AAAS was founded in 1848 and includes nearly 250 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world. The non-profit AAAS (www.aaas.org) is open to all and fulfills its mission to “advance science and serve society” through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education, public engagement, and more. For the latest research news, log onto EurekAlert! (www.eurekalert.org), the premier science news website, a service of AAAS. See www.aaas.org.

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Nkongho Beteck, 202-326-6434, nbeteck@aaas.org

Public meeting on design of OSU’s Marine Studies Building to be held Nov. 17

NEWPORT, Ore. – Oregon State University will host an informational meeting and open house on Thursday, Nov. 17, to present the schedule and design process for the interior of the new Marine Studies Building in Newport.

The building is a key component of OSU’s Marine Studies Initiative (MSI). It will support marine studies research, education, and outreach and engagement conducted by OSU.

The event will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the auditorium at the Hatfield Marine Science Center Visitor Center, 2030 S.E. Marine Science Drive, Newport. The presentation will be led by Bob Cowen, director of the Hatfield Marine Science Center, and Bob Zimmerman of YGH Architects. The architect’s presentation will begin at 5:30 p.m. Light refreshments will be served.

OSU is planning the construction of the Marine Studies Building, an approximate 85,000-square-foot facility within the Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC) campus. The building is expected to include:

  • Classrooms and teaching labs
  • Flexible, state-of-the-art research labs
  • Faculty offices
  • Facilities for visiting faculty and scholars
  • Meeting rooms open to the greater HMSC and Newport community
  • Vertical evacuation features

In addition to the opportunity to be a world-class research and teaching facility, the Marine Studies Building will demonstrate leading seismic and tsunami-resistant building design and campus improvements.

In deciding the location of the building, OSU President Edward J. Ray has required that the building will be designed, engineered and constructed so that it will:

  • Survive an associated tsunami resulting from a catastrophic natural event, such as a Cascadia Subduction Zone event,
  • Be repairable following an L-level tsunami,
  • Be built to provide a safe and accessible, vertical rooftop evacuation site alternative for those with impaired mobility in the event of an XXL-level tsunami,
  • Fully serve the Hatfield Marine Science Center campus by preferred horizontal evacuation systems.

The building will exceed current and soon to be updated national American Society of Certified Engineering standards for buildings in inundation zones.

Source: 

Steve Clark, 541-737-3808, steve.clark@oregonstate.edu

‘State of the Coast’ conference set for Oct. 29

GLENEDEN BEACH, Ore. – Registration has opened for Oregon Sea Grant’s annual State of the Coast conference, which will be held Oct. 29 at the Salishan Spa and Golf Resort.

The event is designed to bring together the public, scientists, business and community leaders, fishermen, resource managers, teachers, students and conservationists so they can learn about current marine research and issues facing the coast. There are fees for attendance.

The keynote speaker will be Emmy-winning Michael Bendixen, a videographer and editor with Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Oregon Field Guide. Bendixen, who has worked with Oregon Sea Grant, has spent his career focusing on communicating science through art. He’ll talk about how he learns the science, crafts a story and produces a video.

Presentations will include the following topics:

  • an update on coastal legislation
  • what’s happening with wave energy
  • how and why the changing oceans are being monitored
  • the 50th anniversary of Oregon’s beach bill
  • innovations in coastal planning
  • harmful algal blooms
  • innovative approaches to engage youth in marine science, industry and issues in their communities
  • the effect of ocean oddities on fish ecology, such as “The Blob,” a huge patch of unusually warm water in the Pacific Ocean

Additionally, students from various universities in Oregon, including Oregon State University, will talk about their coastal research. Also, cooking demonstrations will teach participants how to prepare various types of seafood.

Registration in advance is recommended as space is limited. Cost is $35 for the public and $25 for students and includes lunch and a reception. Doors open at 8 a.m. and the conference starts at 9 a.m. For more information and to register, visit www.stateofthecoast.com. Salishan is at Gleneden Beach, about five miles south of Lincoln City.

Source: 

Flaxen Conway, 541-737-1339, fconway@coas.oregonstate.edu; Jamie Doyle, 541-572-5263, Jamie.Doyle@oregonstate.edu

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Sara Shaw Roberts, a former master’s student at Oregon State University, talks about her research at the 2015 State of the Coast Conference in Coos Bay. (Photo by Anne Farrell-Matthews)
2015 State of the Coast


Marie Kowalski, a former master’s student at Oregon State University, talks about her research on mitigating microplastics at the 2015 State of the Coast Conference in Coos Bay. (Photo by Anne Farrell-Matthews)

2015 State of the Coast

Tours available on OSU research vessel to dock in Portland at end of STEM cruise

NEWPORT, Ore. – For three days this week, Oregon high school students and teachers are joining scientists at Oregon State University aboard the research vessel Oceanus to gain at-sea research experience off the Oregon coast as part of a project to enhance their STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math skills.

This Friday, the young scientists and their professional partners will journey up the Columbia River aboard the R/V Oceanus and dock at Riverplace Marina in Portland, where they will spend the weekend doing a series of activities, including tours for K-12 students and the public.

The public tours will be held from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17. Space is limited and advance registration is required. For more information or to register for a tour, visit: http://bit.ly/2bTKyQ0.

The project is a collaborative effort from Oregon Sea Grant and the Oregon Coast STEM Hub, which serves educators, students and communities along the Oregon coast and is located at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport. The students and high school teachers participating in the cruise are from Bandon, North Bend, Waldport, Newport and Warrenton.

“This is an opportunity for Oregon high school students and teachers to work with marine researchers and really dig into investigative scientific methods,” said Tracy Crews, marine education manager for Oregon Sea Grant. “It also provides an opportunity for graduate students to work as mentors with these young students alongside top scientists addressing some very real issues facing our oceans.”

Leigh Torres, a principal investigator with OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute, will serve as chief scientist on the cruise, which will include line transect surveys for marine mammals and seabirds off the Oregon coast.

“We will record where and when we observe different species assemblages of marine mammals and seabirds off the Oregon coast, and link this data with habitat and prey data collected during the cruise,” Torres said. “This will demonstrate the patchiness of ocean resources and how species are distributed differently relative to their particular needs.”

“We’re really hoping that this hands-on experience will trigger interest in STEM and enthusiasm for working on environmental challenges,” added Stacia Fletcher, director for the Oregon Coast STEM Hub.

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Tracy Crews, 541-867-0329, tracy.crews@oregonstate.edu

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Research vessel Oceanus; photos by Pat Kight

R/V Oceanus

Oceanus004PK

Oregon State to issue proposal request for project to build research vessels

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University will issue a request for proposals, or RFP on Monday, Aug. 15, for a project to construct up to three advanced regional class research vessels to help replenish the aging United States academic fleet.

OSU will implement a two-stage “best value procurement process” for selecting a single shipyard in the United States to construct the vessels, which allows the university to evaluate proposals on qualitative factors in addition to cost factors. The deadline for submitting the first stage of proposals is Sept. 29 of this year.

In January 2013, the National Science Foundation selected OSU as the lead institution to finalize the design and coordinate the construction of a vessel – and possibly up to two more – a project considered crucial to modernizing the country’s marine science research capabilities.

These “regional class research vessels” are designed for studying coastal waters out to beyond the continental rise as part of the U.S. academic fleet that is available to all ocean scientists conducting federal- and state-funded research and educational programs.

The entire RFP will be available online beginning Aug. 15.

The two-stage process will begin with technical proposals due Sept. 29, which will include but not be limited to descriptions of facilities, construction history, business history, financial capabilities, management practices, engineering and component subcontracting (including naming single-source vendors), and a schedule to construct the vessel, according to Demian Bailey, Oregon State’s former marine superintendent and a co-leader on the project.

The university will identify the shipyards best qualified for the project in the first stage and invite them to participate in the second stage of the RFP. Shipyards selected for this second stage will then submit an in-depth cost proposal due in early February. Final selection of a shipyard is anticipated to take place in April 2017. Delivery of the first ship, which will be operated by Oregon State University, is expected in fall of 2020.

Additional ships would likely be designated for the U.S. East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico, if funded by NSF with congressional appropriations and approval by the president. NSF would competitively select operators for those vessels, possibly in 2018.

Although similar in size, the new ships will differ greatly from R/V Oceanus, built in 1975 and operated by OSU, and its sister ships, R/V Endeavor, operated by the University of Rhode Island, and R/V Wecoma (retired), said Clare Reimers, a professor in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences and project co-leader.

“This class of ships will enable researchers to work much more safely and efficiently at sea because of better handling and stability, more capacity for instrumentation and less noise,” Reimers said. “The design also has numerous ‘green’ features, including an optimized hull form, waste heat recovery, LED lighting, and variable speed power generation.”

The design of the ships was done by The Glosten Associates, a naval architecture firm based in Seattle.The research vessels will be 193 feet in length, with a range greater than 5,000 nautical miles. Cruising speed is 11 knots with a maximum speed of 12.5 knots, and there are 16 berths for scientists and 13 for crew members.

More information about the project is available at: http://ceoas.oregonstate.edu/ships/rcrv/

 

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Demian Bailey, 541-737-0460

dbailey@coas.oregonstate.edu

Comprehensive report of world’s transboundary water basins finds hotspots of risk

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Environmental stresses including climate change and population growth will have an enormous impact on the world’s waterways that cross international borders, a new report concludes, but economic development may have consequences just as far-reaching.

The United Nations Environmental Group has just completed the most comprehensive assessment of the world’s 286 transboundary river basins yet attempted and identified “hotspots” where geopolitical risks are projected to increase in the next 15 to 30 years.

“The proliferation of dams and diversion of water from countries that are upstream from other nations that are dependent on that water is of growing concern,” said Aaron Wolf, an internationally recognized water treaty expert from Oregon State University, who was involved in creating the report. “There simply isn’t enough water to go around.”

These transboundary river basins and other waterways span 151 countries and include more than 40 percent of the world’s population and land area. The analysis, “Transboundary Waters Assessment Programme,” was a collaborative effort between eight international organizations and research institutes and Oregon State University.

Among the areas considered hotspots, the report concludes, are the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna basin.

The Tigris-Euphrates river basins are the focus of much of the stress in the Middle East, Wolf pointed out. Turkey is building dams upstream, which could reduce water previously used by Iraq and Syria. Political destabilization and the control of some dams by ISIS further complicates the issue.

“It is a blueprint for trouble,” Wolf said, “when a country upstream wants to build a dam and has no agreement with the country or countries downstream.”

Central Asia became a hotspot after the breakup of the Soviet Union, which once controlled the water in the region. In recent years, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have developed plans to construct dams that would reduce water now being used for irrigation downstream in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Increasing use of water from Central Asian river has resulted in the lowering of the Aral Sea, and increased dangers from toxic waste deposits.

The Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna basin has a similar issue, which is repeating itself through the Chinese Himalayas, said Wolf, who is a professor in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.

“China has massive energy requirements and has been very active in building dams as they try to wean themselves off coal,” Wolf said. “Water is being impacted on many of the rivers in the Himalayas in one form or another and 1.5 billion people downstream rely on it. In some of the delta, as the rivers drop, salt water intrudes and further destabilizes the environment.”

The Nile basin faces similar issues, Wolf noted.

Not all of the troubled areas are because of political issues, the OSU researcher pointed out. The southwestern United States and northern Mexico rely almost solely on the Colorado River and the Rio Grande for water.

“We have great agreements with Mexico,” Wolf said. “But there’s just not a lot of water there. And climate change may make it worse.”

Many of these hotspots have been known about for some time, but the baseline data in the assessment combined with the first comprehensive look at the impact of multiple stressors may allow policy-makers to get ahead of the curve before disaster strikes, Wolf said.

“From a geopolitical standpoint, if you can identify places where things have the potential to blow up before people realize it, you can jump-start the conversation and begin what we call “preventive diplomacy,’” Wolf noted. “Imagine if we could have had such a conversation about the Klamath River basin in Oregon before the drought of 2001.”

One area of potential trouble, Wolf said, is in the Salween basin, where water from China may be dammed before it can get to Myanmar and Thailand. “All three countries have development plans for the region,” he said, “and none of them are compatible.”

The Helmand and Harirud basins, shared by Afghanistan and Iran, also have the potential for flare-up, Wolf said.

“The U.S. wants Afghanistan to develop its economy and become more independent, but Iran downstream also wants that water and has tenuous relations with us. We hope that the information in this report will provide early warning so appropriate actions can be taken to prevent escalating tensions.”

The report is available online at http://twap-rivers.org/

Partners in the assessment include the Center for Environmental Systems Research, Germany; Center for International Earth Science Information Network, Columbia University; City University of New York, Delta Alliance; International Union for the Conservation of Nature; International Geosphere-Biosphere Program; Oregon State University; Stockholm International Water Institute; and the United Nations Environment Program-DHI Partnership.

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Aaron Wolf, 541-737-2722, wolfa@geo.oregonstate.edu

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Fish traps at the site of a proposed dam on the Mekong River at the border between Laos and Cambodia. This photo is available at: https://flic.kr/p/FMkr5H 
















dam
A micro-hydro facillty on the Salween River in Yunnan Province, China, along a stretch of river slated for large dam development.