World's water ecosystems under threat

September 11, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- Human activities such as fishing and water use are over-riding the effects of global warming on the ecosystems that support the world’s water and fish supplies, experts have revealed.

And the world’s leading marine and freshwater scientists show direct human impacts will devastate lakes, rivers and coastal seas long before climate change takes full effect.

The stark warning is the conclusion of a major new work compiled and led by Professor Nicholas Polunin, leading marine environmental scientist at Newcastle University.

Entitled ‘Aquatic Ecosystems: Trends and Global Prospects’, the book draws on the expertise of 103 of the world’s top aquatic ecologists.

It reviews likely changes to the year 2025 in the Earth’s 21 different water-based ecosystems - such as lakes, rivers, tropical seas and Arctic waters.

Huge damage has already taken place and recent decades have seen a sharp increase in the rate at which our water ecosystems are being destroyed.

Professor Polunin said: 'Across the 21 different ecosystems we have looked at, direct human actions have long been exceeding - and will long continue to exceed - the effects of climate change in almost every case.

'That is not to say that climate change isn’t happening or is unimportant.

'Coral reefs are threatened by oceanic warming and the release of carbon frozen and buried in wetlands has major implications for the Earth.

'But the demise of fish stocks through fishing and decline of rivers through excessive off-take are just two dramatic examples of how people are directly changing aquatic ecosystems and threatening the natural services that they deliver.'

Professor Polunin said he believed that climate change had become an easy focus of environmental concern and had overshadowed the direct impact that people were having on the natural environment.

'Global warming seems to have attracted more attention with respect to simple technological fixes,' he explained.

'The worldwide focus on global climate change has helped people to think more profoundly about the Earth’s future than ever before but there is a danger that some more difficult and fundamental issues are being underplayed.'

Professor Polunin continued: 'Human population growth and over-consumption make up a complex knot of problems, quickly highlighting major challenges such as of personal liberty, faith and economic disparities among the world’s peoples.

'Climate change has got people thinking about the future at all levels and the next step in our ecological planning of the planet’s water resources needs to be more comprehensive, encompassing growing human consumption, its causes and consequences.'

Provided by Newcastle University

Explore further: Changing the way we think about urban infrastructure

Related Stories

Changing the way we think about urban infrastructure

July 22, 2015

In the early morning of Sept. 8, 2014, rain began to fall across the Phoenix metro area. It showed no signs of stopping during the morning commute, and soon lakes were forming on streets and freeways. Drivers scrambled from ...

Mounting threat to Galapagos from 'El Nino'

July 23, 2015

The Galapagos Islands, celebrated for their breathtaking biodiversity, could face a major threat from "El Nino," the weather system known to wreak havoc every few years.

The impact of climate change in Ecuador's Andean mountains

July 23, 2015

The lakes of El Cajas National Park, located at 4,000 metres high in Ecuador's Azuay province, are the scene of fieldwork carried out by the research project ECUAFLUX, an initiative to analyse the carbon cycle in the Andean ...

Predicting the shape of river deltas

July 22, 2015

The Mississippi River delta is a rich ecosystem of barrier islands, estuaries, and wetlands that's home to a diverse mix of wildlife—as well as more than 2 million people. Over the past few decades, the shape of the delta ...

Recommended for you

A cataclysmic event of a certain age

July 27, 2015

At the end of the Pleistocene period, approximately 12,800 years ago—give or take a few centuries—a cosmic impact triggered an abrupt cooling episode that earth scientists refer to as the Younger Dryas.

Researchers find reasons behind increases in urban flooding

July 27, 2015

Scientists at the University of South Florida's College of Marine Science investigating the increasing risk of 'compound flooding' for major U.S. cities have found that flooding risk is greatest for cities along the Atlantic ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.