Study grapples with ocean climate stress challenge

Jun 24, 2014
Study grapples with ocean climate stress challenge
Climate change will allow larger waves to travel over reefs deteriorating conditions for less wave tolerant marine life, such as seagrass. Credit: Tane Sinclair-Taylor

(Phys.org) —Researchers are struggling to solve the challenge of predicting climate change impacts on marine environments.

Research led by University of Queensland scientists has found that predicting such impacts could be more difficult than first thought, due to interactions between ocean ecosystems.

UQ Global Change Institute researcher Dr Megan Saunders said the study, published in Nature Climate Change this week, was the first to measure the impact of environmental change on such interactions.

It found could damage tropical marine ecosystems by mid-century.

Dr Saunders said the response of one ecosystem, such as , to , could have significant impacts on neighbouring ecosystems.

"As sea levels rise we can expect to see deeper waters over coral reefs, leading to larger waves, more erosion and shoreline damage, and ultimately harsher conditions for seagrass and other ocean communities that rely on wave protection provided by reefs," she said.

"In addition to storing carbon, seagrass acts as a form of shelter for fish, produces high levels of oxygen and offers wave protection, so its destruction could have devastating consequences."

The hundreds of millions of people who live near tropical coasts will be the first affected by sea level rise.

Global Change Institute Director Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg said the immediate threats of sea level rise included inundation and inland migration, and many people would eventually lose their food sources and income streams.

"Coastal habitats will be permanently lost and others altered irreparably as they attempt to acclimatise to the changing conditions," he said.

The research, at Lizard Island on Australia's Great Barrier Reef, involved ecologists, modellers, geographers and engineers from UQ and the University of Wollongong

They mapped coral reefs, measured seafloor topography, and monitored the distribution of seagrass and coral in a set area.

Dr Saunders said the team studied wind data to determine likely changes in wave conditions from rising sea and modelled how the ecosystems might respond to sea level rise.

"Unfortunately we are committed to a certain level of climate change and there will be sea level rise in future years, but strong action to reduce and other impacts on , such as overfishing, could help reduce the damage," she said.

Explore further: Time running out for Great Barrier Reef: scientists

More information: Interdependency of tropical marine ecosystems in response to climate change, Nature Climate Change (2014) DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2274

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Solving the seagrass crisis

Sep 24, 2013

The world's seagrass meadows are in diabolical trouble – but Australian scientists say we can still save them if we act early, even as sea levels rise.

Time running out for Great Barrier Reef: scientists

Mar 06, 2014

Time is running out for Australia's iconic Great Barrier Reef, with climate change set to wreck irreversible damage by 2030 unless immediate action is taken, marine scientists said Thursday.

Seagrass on the decline

May 15, 2013

(Phys.org) —Seagrass along Moreton Bay will drastically decline as sea levels rise, a University of Queensland study has found. The study, published in international journal Global Change Biology this week, reveals that u ...

Climate change plays 'Russian roulette' with the world's oceans

Oct 16, 2013

The world's oceans will see dramatic changes thanks to climate change, affecting hundreds of millions of people who depend on the sea according to research published today in the online journal PLOS Biology. It's the first global forecast for the oceans under clim ...

Marine plants provide defence against climate change

Oct 31, 2013

Seagrass, mangroves and salt-marsh ecosystems are able to develop strategies for climate change adaptation and mitigation, according to a new study by researchers at The University of Western Australia.

Recommended for you

Hopes, fears, doubts surround Cuba's oil future

13 hours ago

One of the most prolific oil and gas basins on the planet sits just off Cuba's northwest coast, and the thaw in relations with the United States is giving rise to hopes that Cuba can now get in on the action.

New challenges for ocean acidification research

Dec 19, 2014

Over the past decade, ocean acidification has received growing recognition not only in the scientific area. Decision-makers, stakeholders, and the general public are becoming increasingly aware of "the other carbon dioxide ...

Compromises lead to climate change deal

Dec 19, 2014

Earlier this month, delegates from the various states that make up the UN met in Lima, Peru, to agree on a framework for the Climate Change Conference that is scheduled to take place in Paris next year. For ...

User comments : 5

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

verkle
2 / 5 (12) Jun 24, 2014
Ahhh! Another GW article. They come a dime a dozen these days.
Such a distraction for scientists that want to focus on other topics.
Vietvet
4 / 5 (8) Jun 24, 2014
Ahhh! Another inane comment from the creationist troll.
Maggnus
3.4 / 5 (5) Jun 24, 2014
Ahhh! Another GW article. They come a dime a dozen these days.
Such a distraction for scientists that want to focus on other topics.
Lol seriously, how would you know?
howhot2
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 26, 2014
Ahhh! Another GW article. They come a dime a dozen these days.
Such a distraction for scientists that want to focus on other topics.

Dim bulb speaks again and everyone laughs. Then a tea party sign says "Hay Moran, get a Brane" At the same time, another daily 100 million tons of CO2 have been force fed into the atmosphere.



ubavontuba
1.8 / 5 (5) Jun 26, 2014
This is nothing but AGWite scaremongering. The whole, "The sea levels are catastrophically rising!" hysteria has been a lie, all along.

http://nzclimates...levl.pdf

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.