World ocean systems undermined by climate change by 2100

October 16, 2013  |   |  Comments
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(Courtesy NOAA HURL Archives)

(Courtesy NOAA HURL Archives)

An ambitious new study describes the full chain of events by which ocean biogeochemical changes triggered by manmade greenhouse gas emissions may cascade through marine habitats and organisms, penetrating to the deep ocean and eventually influencing humans.

Camilo Mora, an assistant professor at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Department of Geography, and Craig Smith, a professor of oceanography, worked with a 28-person international collaboration of climate modelers, biogeochemists, oceanographers and social scientists to develop the study, which was published in the scientific journal PLOS Biology.

Previous analyses have focused mainly on ocean warming and acidification, considerably underestimating the biological and social consequences of climate change. Factoring in predictable synergistic changes such as the depletion of dissolved oxygen in seawater and a decline in productivity of ocean ecosystems, the new study shows that no corner of the world ocean will be untouched by climate change by 2100.

The human ramifications of these changes are likely to be massive and disruptive. Food chains, fishing and tourism could all be impacted. The study shows that some 470 to 870 million of the world’s poorest people rely on the ocean for food, jobs and revenues, and live in countries where ocean goods and services could be compromised by multiple ocean biogeochemical changes.

“When you look at the world ocean, there are few places that will be free of changes; most will suffer the simultaneous effects of warming, acidification and reductions in oxygen and productivity,” said lead author Mora. “The consequences of these co-occurring changes are massive—everything from species survival, to abundance, to range size, to body size, to species richness, to ecosystem functioning are affected by changes in ocean biogeochemistry.”

Read the UH Mānoa news release for more information.

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Category: Research

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