World's water ecosystems under threat

Sep 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: Dutch unveil big plan to fight rising tides

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Scientists discover tropical tree microbiome in Panama

Sep 15, 2014

Human skin and gut microbes influence processes from digestion to disease resistance. Despite the fact that tropical forests are the most biodiverse terrestrial ecosystems on the planet, more is known about ...

Lessons for saving our forests

Sep 12, 2014

In late July, UC Berkeley fire ecologist Scott Stephens was working in Stanislaus National Forest, gathering data on how a century had altered its character. What he saw were the signs of a clear and present ...

Researcher uses genes to map evolution of species

Sep 12, 2014

Genes, whether from apes or the trees they live in, are the storytellers of the origins of a species, according to a Texas A&M University ecosystem science and management assistant professor in College Station.

Recommended for you

Dutch unveil big plan to fight rising tides

8 hours ago

The Netherlands on Tuesday unveiled a multi-billion-euro, multi-decade plan to counter the biggest environmental threat to the low-lying European nation: surging seawater caused by global climate change.

Drought hits Brazil coffee harvest

11 hours ago

Coffee output in Brazil, the world's chief exporter, will slide this year after the worst drought in decades, agricultural agency Conab said Tuesday.

Landmark fracking study finds no water pollution

13 hours ago

The final report from a landmark federal study on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has found no evidence that chemicals or brine water from the gas drilling process moved upward to contaminate drinking water at one site ...

User comments : 0