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: Study finds accelerated soil carbon loss, increasing the rate of climate change

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New research on Earth's carbon budget

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Results from a research project involving scientists from the Desert Research Institute have generated new findings surrounding some of the unknowns of changes in climate and the degree to which ...

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

Apr 17, 2014

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...

Recommended for you

Untangling Brazil's controversial new forest code

1 hour ago

Approved in 2012, Brazil's new Forest Code has few admirers. Agricultural interests argue that it threatens the livelihoods of farmers. Environmentalists counter that it imperils millions of hectares of forest, ...

Sea floor conditions mimicked for drilling platforms

5 hours ago

Mobile jack-up drilling platforms used in the oil and gas industry are at risk of rejection before installation due to their use in harsher environments and deeper waters—but University of WA scientists ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Study links California drought to global warming

While researchers have sometimes connected weather extremes to man-made global warming, usually it is not done in real time. Now a study is asserting a link between climate change and both the intensifying California drought ...

Untangling Brazil's controversial new forest code

Approved in 2012, Brazil's new Forest Code has few admirers. Agricultural interests argue that it threatens the livelihoods of farmers. Environmentalists counter that it imperils millions of hectares of forest, ...

Autism Genome Project delivers genetic discovery

A new study from investigators with the Autism Genome Project, the world's largest research project on identifying genes associated with risk for autism, has found that the comprehensive use of copy number variant (CNV) genetic ...

Genetic code of the deadly tsetse fly unraveled

Mining the genome of the disease-transmitting tsetse fly, researchers have revealed the genetic adaptions that allow it to have such unique biology and transmit disease to both humans and animals.