Climate Change Will Degrade Ocean Productivity for 870 Million People

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Written By: Emma Websdale

Ongoing greenhouse gas emissions could cascade ocean biogeochemical changes through marine habitats and organisms, affecting 870 million people who depend upon the ocean, warns a new study.  
2599759741According to a recent study, published in the journal Public Library of Science Biology, increasing levels of human-induced greenhouse gases are causing our oceans to warm and to become more acidic, and are depleting oxygen levels in the water. These changes are likely to cause shortfalls in ocean productivity.

The study, led by Camilo Mora of the University of Hawaii, conducted a global assessment of the changes to future ocean biogeochemical variables in marine habits and their implications on people through 2100. Researchers found that “the entire world’s ocean surface will be simultaneously impacted by varying intensities of ocean warming, acidification, oxygen depletion, [and/or] shortfalls in productivity.”

The study warns that such changes in the ocean’s chemistry would be toxic for several marine taxa, with all of the 32 marine habitats analyzed found to experience climate variations. The report highlights the need for immediate ecosystem responses to cope with and adapt to future changes associated with climate change.

If marine ecosystems fail to adapt, however, the report estimates that the ocean’s delivery of ecological services, primarily food-based, could impose significant effects on human welfare. The lives of approximately 470 to 870 million of world’s poorest people, who depend on the ocean for income and food, could be compromised from the impacts. These results highlight the need for immediate mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions.

“The impact of climate change will be felt from the ocean’s surface to [its] floor. It is [genuinely] scary to consider how vast these impacts will be. This is one legacy that we as humans should not be allowed to ignore”, says Andrew Sweetman, co-author of the study.

Results from this study support the latest findings from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) report, which warns that unprecedented levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions released from burning fossil fuels have degraded the health of the world’s oceans at a faster rate than previously thought.