Oceans in distress foreshadow mass extinction

Jun 20, 2011 by Marlowe Hood
Pollution and global warming are pushing the world's oceans to the brink of a mass extinction of marine life unseen for tens of millions of years, a consortium of scientists warned.

Pollution and global warming are pushing the world's oceans to the brink of a mass extinction of marine life unseen for tens of millions of years, a consortium of scientists warned Monday.

Dying , biodiversity ravaged by , expanding open-water "dead zones," toxic algae blooms, the massive depletion of big -- all are accelerating, they said in a report compiled during an April meeting in Oxford of 27 of the world's top ocean experts.

Sponsored by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO), the review of recent science found that ocean health has declined further and faster than dire forecasts only a few years ago.

These symptoms, moreover, could be the harbinger of wider disruptions in the interlocking web of biological and that scientists now call the .

All five mass extinctions of life on the planet, reaching back more than 500 million years, were preceded by many of the same conditions now afflicted the , they said.

"The results are shocking," said Alex Rogers, an Oxford professor who heads IPSO and co-authored the report. "We are looking at consequences for humankind that will impact in our lifetime."

A colourful variety of coral grow at Pink Beach off Komodo island. Pollution and global warming are pushing the world's oceans to the brink of a mass extinction of marine life unseen for tens of millions of years, a consortium of scientists warned.

Three main drivers are sickening the global marine environment, and all are a direct consequence of humans activity: global warming, and a dwindling level oxygen, a condition known as hypoxia.

Up to now, these and other impacts have been studied mainly in isolation. Only recently have scientists began to understand how these forces interact.

"We have underestimated the overall risks, and that the whole of marine degradation is greater than the sum of its parts," Rogers said. "That degradation is now happening at a faster rate than predicted."

Indeed, the pace of change is tracking or has surpassed the worst-case scenarios laid out by the UN (IPCC) in its landmark 2007 report, according to the new assessment.

The chain reaction leading to increased acidification of the oceans begins with a massive influx of carbon into Earth's climate system.

Oceans act as a massive sponge, soaking up more than a quarter of the CO2 humans pump into the atmosphere.

But when the sponge becomes too saturated, it can disrupt the delicately balanced ecosystems on which marine life -- and ultimately all life on Earth -- depends.

Pollution and global warming are pushing the world's oceans to the brink of a mass extinction of marine life unseen for tens of millions of years, a consortium of scientists warned

"The rate at which carbon is being absorbed is already far greater now than during the last globally significant extinction of marine species 55 million years ago," when some 50 percent of deep-sea life was wiped out, the report said.

That event, called the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, or PETM, may be an ancient dress rehearsal for future climate change that could be even more abrupt and more damaging, some scientists fear.

Pollution has also taken a heavy toll, rendering the oceans less resilient to climate change.

Runoff from nitrogen-rich fertiliser, killer microbes, and hormone-disrupting chemicals, for example, have all contributed to the mass die-off of corals, crucial not just for marine ecosystems but a lifeline for hundreds of millions of people too.

The harvesting up to 90 percent of some species of big fish and sharks, meanwhile, has hugely disrupted food chains throughout the ocean, leading to explosive and imbalanced growth of algae, jellyfish and other "opportunistic" flora and fauna.

"We now face losing marine species and entire marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs, within a single generation," said Daniel Laffoley, head of the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) World Commission on Protected Areas, and co-author of the report.

"And we are also probably the last generation that has enough time to deal with the problems," he told AFP by phone.

Explore further: New scientific review investigates potential influences on recent UK winter floods

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User comments : 22

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zevkirsh
1.4 / 5 (18) Jun 20, 2011
this is a huge problem, man made, and can be solved. global warming alarmists need to check their crap at the door and start focussing on real, solve able problems like saving our oceans, instead of bullshitting about saving the entire universe and world because of their complex simulated climate modeling tells them the sky will be falling any day now.
greggdecker
1.6 / 5 (13) Jun 20, 2011
Seems too fantastic to be true. Why isn't this on the front page news and being broadcasted all over the world? If this is true and this is really happening then we probably deserve the consequences. It seem that if this really was happening like the article says then our leaders would be more concerned.
emsquared
2.3 / 5 (15) Jun 20, 2011
The harvesting up to 90 percent of some species of big fish and sharks, meanwhile, has hugely disrupted food chains throughout the ocean, leading to explosive and imbalanced growth of algae, jellyfish and other "opportunistic" flora and fauna.

Nice of them to dedicate at least 1 sentence to the actual problem behind the whole thing. We are and have been seriously mismanaging our marine resources for a long time now. You harvest 90% of any species in any ecosystem and of course that population is going to be orders-of-magnitude-more vulnerable to any other sort of disruptions. Whether chemical, biological or environmental.

It's unfortunate they used this article as propaganda for the carbon agenda instead of addressing the problem at it's root: over-consumption and general mismanagement.
Alec_Sevins
3.9 / 5 (16) Jun 20, 2011
Note the idiocy of those who pretend to understand ocean depletion, yet act like AGW is just a political conspiracy. Any time global warming is mentioned, these drones repeat their usual mantra; "yeah, just another excuse for a carbon tax" (sarcastic tilt of head, blah blah blah).

I like Richard Glover's joking idea of tattooing these cretins for future reference and shame. They need to eat their words at some point.

Anyone with a true grasp of Man's impact on nature should see AGW as a symptom of human overpopulation and overconsumption. It's scientifically unique but it has strong logical ties to other depletion issues. The oceans and atmosphere can only absorb a finite amount of CO2 before they react to it. It's physics! You can't pick and choose which human impacts matter just because you own petroleum or coal stocks.
emsquared
2.4 / 5 (17) Jun 20, 2011
Note the idiocy of those who pretend to understand ocean depletion, yet act like AGW is just a political conspiracy.

Note the idiocy of the noob who blunders into a community and proceeds to make generalizations about people whom he has no clue about their stance, then hides behind the politics as if that has anything to do with the science.

Look around the forum man, I would never argue we don't have some effect on the climate, but what you and every other mislead AGW proponent will come to realize is that you can argue so much more effectively for better treatment of the environment without trying to force the carbon thing down peoples throats when it is still uncertain. Who's going to argue that it's okay to over-fish salmon? Or that it doesn't matter if we transport biota from A to B in bilge tanks? No one with a leg to stand on. You can't argue against these things on the basis of science, anyone can argue against carbon, and do so legitimately.
thewhitebear
3.4 / 5 (8) Jun 20, 2011
it all comes down to individual lifestyle choices. we don't have to wait for the politicians or corporations to take this seriously. we can all act now and actually live within the energetic limits of our environment, all it takes is simple self-sacrifice. going without. good for those who bike, recycle, etc. but the situation is quickly becoming too drastic for token actions to amount to anything. we need a radical shift to a simpler life based around subsistence agro-ecology. we are consumers and voters and as such have total and complete control over what the government and the businesses do. show them what we want, and they will be forced to respond.
Doom1974
4.1 / 5 (9) Jun 20, 2011
@ emsquared

You just contradicted yourself in a single sentence. Do you think the "carbon thing" and over-consumption are independent? Do you think ocean health and atmospheric health and biosphere health are independent?
Howhot
3 / 5 (13) Jun 20, 2011
As a "Global Warming Alarmist" I ware those words as a badge of honor if it helps people become aware of the very real danger our modern fossil fuel driven world has put us in. In case your wondering here is what you and I have done, we have managed to dump as much CO2 into the atmosphere as could be produced by 30,000,000 million volcanoes would produce in 200 years. Because burning Oil, Coal, is burning all of the volcanic CO2 that has been sequestered by plants for 30,000,000 year as fossils in storage gradually heading to the core of the earth.

Screw the Deniers. They've only hindered the emergency response our planet desperately needs.
Caliban
3 / 5 (6) Jun 20, 2011
Note the idiocy of the noob who blunders into a community and proceeds to make generalizations about people whom he has no clue about their stance, then hides behind the politics as if that has anything to do with the science.


@em2

You've shown yourself to be at least reasonably-well informed in scientific terms regarding other issues discussed here on Physorg, so it is somewhat suprising to find you talking through your hat, and out both sides of your mouth regarding the comment of Alec Sevins, above.
You lack both the seniority and civility to try to lay claim to any moral high ground regarding the comments posted here, much less to attempt to discredit his viewpoint based upon relative newcomer status to this forum.

Most alarming, however, is your disengenuous assertion that AGW/fossil fuel use and the problems detailed in the article are somehow independent of one another, when it is entirely plain that all of these systems are interrelated and feedback driven.

Caliban
3.9 / 5 (7) Jun 20, 2011
It's unfortunate they used this article as propaganda for the carbon agenda instead of addressing the problem at it's root: over-consumption and general mismanagement.


You had it almost right with this bit of analysis, but you stopped short of stating the actual scope of the problem by pretending that AGW/fossil fuel use can somehow be decoupled as a contributing factor to oceanic decline.

"over-consumption and general mismanagement" are certainly a big piece of the problem, but so are acidification, oxygen depletion, hyperthermism, pollution, et c, all brought about by our overconsumption of petro-based products
Caliban
3.7 / 5 (6) Jun 20, 2011
...not to mention the "general mismanagement" of every resource we make use of.
brianweymes
3.7 / 5 (6) Jun 20, 2011
Humans put massive amounts of C02 into the air by burning fossil fuels. Oceans absorb about half of this C02, acting as a carbon sink (how long this will continue for is debated). This is kinda good because it means less atmospheric warming but also bad because in water the C02 changes into carbonic acid which lowers the pH of the oceans, making them more acidic. The chemistry is simple:

CO2(atmospheric) CO2(dissolved)
Conversion to carbonic acid:
CO2(dissolved) + H2O H2CO3

Most of that will change into bicarbonate ions, a form of carbonic acid.

It amazes me that people can deny global warming yet accept the acidification of the oceans when the two are inextricably linked!
emsquared
1.6 / 5 (5) Jun 21, 2011
we need a radical shift to a simpler life based around subsistence...

Tell this to the billions of people in China and India who are just beginning to drag themselves out of "a simpler life".
You just contradicted yourself in a single sentence.

One can be addressed directly, the other cannot.
You lack both the seniority and civility to try to lay claim to any moral high ground regarding the comments posted here

His first post on this site is to call people idiots. Sorry, I have plenty of ground to tell him to take a step back.
your disengenuous assertion that AGW/fossil fuel use and the problems detailed in the article are somehow independent of one another

See, you guys just vote 1 on something you don't like the sound of. Here was my actual assertion:

Our general mismanagement of our resources is the root of the problem as that has made the oceans far more vulnerable to changes in ocean chemistry.

That was all I said, and it's 100% true, yet mindless 1s.
Caliban
5 / 5 (3) Jun 21, 2011
See, you guys just vote 1 on something you don't like the sound of. Here was my actual assertion:

Our general mismanagement of our resources is the root of the problem as that has made the oceans far more vulnerable to changes in ocean chemistry.

That was all I said, and it's 100% true, yet mindless 1s.


That's not quite all, em2. Maybe you meant the emphasis, but this is what you said:

Nice of them to dedicate at least 1 sentence to the actual problem behind the whole thing. [....] orders-of-magnitude-more vulnerable to any other sort of disruptions. Whether chemical, biological or environmental.

It's unfortunate they used this article as propaganda for the carbon agenda instead of addressing the problem at it's root: over-consumption and general mismanagement.


By saying that, you implied that AGW/Fossil fuel use have a negligible impact -are, in fact, propaganda- and the actual problem solely the overexploitation of oceanic resources.

Not at all the same thing.
emsquared
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 22, 2011
That's not quite all, em2.

Fair enough, but if you consider how heavily weighted it's content is towards emphasizing the role of carbon in the imbalance of the ecosystem, when considering all of the other factors, it's definitely not an honest representation of reality.

I'm really curious, for all the AGW game people talk here, how many people actually practice what they preach, as thewhitebear suggests, towards doing something about it. How many of you bike anytime you can, take public transportation, air dry laundry, hand wash and air dry dishes, keep your living space @ 78 summer 55 winter, vote at every election, buy local consumer goods, garden, compost, grow lawns consisting of indigenous species that don't consume 100s of gallons of water like KY Bluegrass, reduce red meat consumption, use solar or geo-thermal, go paperless at home and work, recycle, or anything at all.

Not expecting or wanting answers, I just hope even 1/2 of you have the courage of your convictions.
Caliban
5 / 5 (2) Jun 22, 2011
em2,

we are certainly agreed that mindless, "I'm gonna get mine, so f**k you" consumerism -without even getting started as to the causes of the thing itself- is at the root of virtually all the degradation of our environment, economy, and community(on every scale). And I understand that you are trying to make the point that it is a generalized ill, and that this article may overemphasize AGW at the expense of highlighting the sickness of consumerism.
We are also agreed that the sickness of consumerism must be curbed if there is to be any hope of (the majority) of humanity riding this disaster out.
I can't speak for anyone else here, but yes, I do make a concerted effort to do more with less, use it up, wear it out, repair it, recycle it, local it, walk it, bus it -you get the picture. But it's important to remember that while that's all dandy, we are already in the shit, and the Big Picture has to be considered in order for us to have a prayer of getting through it.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (6) Jun 23, 2011
"The NASA scientist who once claimed the Bush administration tried to "silence" his global warming claims is now accused of receiving more than $1.2 million from the very environmental organizations whose agenda he advocated.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Washington, D.C., a group claims NASA is withholding documents that show James Hansen failed to comply with ethics rules and financial disclosures regarding substantial compensation he earned outside his $180,000 taxpayer-paid position as director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

Read more: http://www.foxnew...Q4KIzAeL
"
Should be interesting.
kaasinees
2 / 5 (4) Jun 23, 2011
It's unfortunate they used this article as propaganda for the carbon agenda instead of addressing the problem at it's root: over-consumption and general mismanagement.

To bad you are an idiot.
Without our pollution those algae would not thrive at all.

Its not one thing we do that causes all the trouble, it is the combination of all our actions that will make his planet unrepairable(for a loooooong time at best).

Life probally survives, but no doubt we will get killed by ourselves if we keep going at this rate.
stanfrax
5 / 5 (1) Jun 23, 2011
http://www.nasa.g...dex.html - if you work for NASA this is for personnel only the rest of you just carry on as normal - everything is OK
emsquared
not rated yet Jun 23, 2011
But it's important to remember that while that's all dandy, we are already in the shit...

This is why I'd prefer not to see us focus on treating the symptom (GHGs). And you have to admit that is the focus of the modern day movement. Especially when treating the disease would simultaneously treat the symptom. My message isn't forget about GHGs, it's Remember everything else?
Without our pollution those algae would not thrive at all.

Without mismanagement, the ecosystem would be able to adjust appropriately and cull blooms. Treat the disease.
Its not one thing we do that causes all the trouble

I never said it was, infact I've always asserted the opposite in no uncertain terms. That one thing causes our problems is more the IPCC stance, see: GHGs.

Care to engage in intelligent discussion rather than attack and sling ad hominems, kaasi?
Johannes414
1 / 5 (4) Jun 26, 2011
Wrong - the last time this happenend was in the time of Noah. This worldwide flood is reported by every single ancient civilization. The global kilometer thick layer of hardened sediments containing billions of rapidly buried fossilized marine animals is exactly what this kind of global flood event would leave behind.
Caliban
5 / 5 (3) Jun 27, 2011
Wrong - the last time this happenend was in the time of Noah. This worldwide flood is reported by every single ancient civilization. The global kilometer thick layer of hardened sediments containing billions of rapidly buried fossilized marine animals is exactly what this kind of global flood event would leave behind.


Complete Bullshit, JK. And you'll be able to find a global, one-kilometer-thick layer of -IT- before you'll ever find a single peer-reviewed article from any reputable scientific journal claiming a "global kilometer thick layer of hardened sediments containing billions of rapidly buried fossilized marine animals" deposited by a global flood.

I am astonished that you can feel ANY confidence in making such an utterly insupportable assertion. Pull your head out
--NOW!!! Oh, and while your at it, pull out of Bob Jones University or whatever backasswards ignorance mill you attend, and enroll in a real school that teaches facts, and not fantasy.