Humans 'damaging the oceans': research

Jul 29, 2009

Mounting evidence that human activity is changing the world's oceans in profound and damaging ways is outlined in a new scientific discussion paper released today.

Man-made "are affecting marine biological processes from genes to ecosystems over scales from rock pools to ocean basins, impacting ecosystem services and threatening human food security," the study by Professor Mike Kingsford of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University and colleague Dr Andrew Brierley of St Andrews University, Scotland, warns.

Their review, published in the latest issue of the journal Current Biology, says that rates of physical change in the oceans are unprecedented in some cases, and change in ocean life is likely to be equally quick.

These include changes in the areas fish and other sea species can inhabit, invasions, extinctions and major shifts in marine ecosystems.

"In the past, the boundaries between geological ages are marked by sudden losses of species. We may now be entering a new age in which climate change and other human-caused factors such as fishing are the major threats for the oceans and their life," Andrew and Mike say.

"Given how essential the oceans are to how our entire planet functions it is vital that we intervene before more tipping points are passed and the oceans go down the sort of spiral of decline we have seen in the world's tropical forests and rangelands, for example."

Man-made carbon emissions are now above the 'worst case' scenario envisioned by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), causing the most rapid global warming seen since the peak of the last Ice Age. At the same time the carbon is acidifying the oceans, with harmful consequences for certain plankton and shellfish.

"At current emission rates it is possible we will pass the critical level of 450 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere by 2040. That's the level when, it is generally agreed, global climate change may become catastrophic and irreversible," they add. "At that point we can expect to see the loss of most of our and the arctic seas."

"The climate is currently warming faster than the worst case known from the fossil record, about 56 million years ago, when temperatures rose about 6 degrees over 1000 years. If emissions continue it is not unreasonable to expect … warming of 5.5 degrees by the end of this century."

Scientists expect ocean oxygen levels to decline by about six per cent for every one degree increase in temperature and areas in the sea which are low in oxygen to grow by at least 50 per cent. This has major implications for the world's most productive fishing waters in the cool temperate regions. The seas provide around one sixth of humanity's protein food - and any loss in fisheries production will have a direct impact on us, he adds.

Besides the changes induced by carbon emissions, the oceans are also under assault from over-fishing, increased UV exposure, toxic pollution, alien species and disease. The combined effect is to weaken the ability of many species to withstand these multiple stresses.

Another risk is that warming will unlock vast reserves of frozen methane in the seabed, triggering uncontrollable, runaway global warming.

"In the face of such terrifying changes even large scale interventions such as establishment of very large networks of Marine Protected Areas are unlikely to be effective," Mike cautions. "On a global scale, an immediate reduction in CO2 emissions is essential to minimize future human-induced climate change."

The oceans can also play a role in the proposed solution of eliminating carbon emissions, by producing clean energy from wind, wave and tide - potentially - by triggering phytoplankton blooms with fertilisers to absorb more carbon from the atmosphere, or using the seabed to store CO2. However these require far more research to be sure.

"It may already be too late to avoid major irreversible changes to many marine ecosystems. As history has shown us, these marine-based changes could have major earth-system consequences," the scientists conclude.

More information: Andrew S. Brierley, and Michael J. Kingsford, Impacts of on marine organisms and , 19, R602-R614, July 28, 2009

Source: ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies

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User comments : 14

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Velanarris
2.6 / 5 (5) Jul 29, 2009
I see a lot of statements here with no evidence to back them up. Can anyone provide accurate references or data sets for the noted authors' research?
Mandan
5 / 5 (1) Jul 29, 2009
Have you tried the full text available on line here?

http://www.cell.c...)01181-6


QubitTamer
1.7 / 5 (6) Jul 29, 2009
Evidence is secondary to fear... ask yourself, does this article make you afraid? are you willing to have the government DO SOMETHING about it? In which case, whether it be Jews taking over the banking system of Germany or Climate Change threatening all our lives, you too can support FASCISM!!! All that is required for fascism to succeed is fear of fear!!! If the populace is ignorant and afraid then the government can consolidate power and deny liberty and no one will complain as long as they think some CRISIS is being taken care of for them! Most people never grow emotionally beyond the age of 12 or so and still want a parent / authority figure to be there to given them a safety net! To hell with individual liberty and the pain in the ass responsibilities to make all the decisions for onesself! Let the government take care of me!!!
omatumr
1.6 / 5 (7) Jul 30, 2009
RUN, THE SKY IS FALLING!

Have you tried the full text available on line here?

http://www.cell.c...)01181-6



Yes: "Human activities are releasing gigatonnes of carbon to the Earth's atmosphere annually. Direct consequences of cumulative post-industrial emissions include increasing global temperature, perturbed regional weather patterns, rising sea levels, acidifying oceans, changed nutrient loads and altered ocean circulation."

Does this sounds like a dispassionate scientific report?

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
http://www.omatumr.com
Velanarris
2.3 / 5 (3) Jul 30, 2009
Have you tried the full text available on line here?

http://www.cell.c...)01181-6

Yes I have, the problem is their research appears to be a derivative of multiple prior unsubstantiated works.
rubberman
2 / 5 (4) Jul 30, 2009
Guys, regardless of the lack of references and unsubstantiated "assumptions" regarding the climate in this article, the title of the article is 100% fact...
Velanarris
3 / 5 (4) Jul 30, 2009
Guys, regardless of the lack of references and unsubstantiated "assumptions" regarding the climate in this article, the title of the article is 100% fact...


Without a universally accepted baseline for what the ocean should and shouldn't be, and without a direct correlation to human activities on the whole the title is opinion.

Change one word (damaging to changing) and the title is 100% fact. Yes, this argument is semantics, but terminology used delineates propaganda vs reality.

Humans are certainly changing the oceans, but change doesn't have a direction, just an outcome and new baseline. Now to address the effects of human based oceanic change one would be able to determine if they are detrimental to a "steady state" ecosystem or not. Then again, over the course of a single human lifetime, which is about how much data we have, that determination cannot be made outside of a subjective frame of reference.

On a personal note, I'm a conservationist when it comes to the ocean, I see that we are causing detriment to what we deem an acceptable ecosystem. This is my subjective view. It can be argued any way you want, but it is simply opinion from a human point of view.
GrayMouser
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 31, 2009
Have you tried the full text available on line here?
http://www.cell.c...)01181-6


Yes I have, the problem is their research appears to be a derivative of multiple prior unsubstantiated works.

That's not true! They cite Mann's completely discredited paper on temperature reconstructions using tree rings as a proxy.

The same for the IPCC citations, a review of a review of a review does not science make.
vit
2.7 / 5 (3) Jul 31, 2009
Guys, regardless of the lack of references and unsubstantiated "assumptions" regarding the climate in this article, the title of the article is 100% fact...


Without a universally accepted baseline for what the ocean should and shouldn't be, and without a direct correlation to human activities on the whole the title is opinion.

Change one word (damaging to changing) and the title is 100% fact. Yes, this argument is semantics, but terminology used delineates propaganda vs reality.


So if somebody puts a grenade in a car and sets it off, they aren't "damaging" the car, they're "changing" it. Is that what you're saying?

Point being I think the article text establishes at least enough a baseline to advance its point that we are, indeed, making the ocean unusable to our ends.
Velanarris
2.3 / 5 (3) Jul 31, 2009

So if somebody puts a grenade in a car and sets it off, they aren't "damaging" the car, they're "changing" it. Is that what you're saying?
Is your car over 3 billion years old? Has your car changed shape, salinity, color, chemical consistency, average temperature etc in almost a completely chaotic manner?
Is your car the medium in which millions of forms of life that are ever changing exist?

Grenade in the car is not equal to mankind in the ocean.
Point being I think the article text establishes at least enough a baseline to advance its point that we are, indeed, making the ocean unusable to our ends.
So over the past 30 years you're saying the ocean has changed drastically?

Stop with the emotional arguments and poor analogies and people will pay more attention to your point of view.
GrayMouser
3 / 5 (2) Aug 02, 2009
Stop with the emotional arguments and poor analogies and people will pay more attention to your point of view.

Such an approach would put Greenpeace and most of the ecological activism out of business.
dachpyarvile
1 / 5 (1) Aug 18, 2009
Malarkey! 1,000 years ago the temperatures were at least 4°C to 5°C warmer than at present and the ocean's temperature allowed swimming in the waters off Greenland, which history does record.

See H. H. Lamb, Climate, History and the Modern World, 157-159.

Where was all the calamity? No historians record anything to that effect! The oceans were fine and life was fine.

Come to think of it, the oceans were fine when the Earth's atmospheric CO2 levels were in the 1,000s ppm. We are merely at a paltry 385 ppm.

Yet more pseudo-scientific gloom and doom...
QubitTamer
1 / 5 (1) Aug 18, 2009
Change is only good when it involves more centralized control over the private lives of people. Change in any other context, especially man's effect on our earth is always EVIL with a big E, and must be stopped by yes, more governmental control somehow... or by superheroes like Ethelred who with their ueber-intellects and omniscient knowledge of what is the perfect set of variables for all systems. Too bad i and so many others who DARE post here on Physorg soak up so much of Ethel's time or he would just go out and fix the ocean unasked...
Ethelred
5 / 5 (1) Aug 18, 2009
or by superheroes like Ethelred who with their ueber-intellects and omniscient knowledge of what is the perfect set of variables for all systems. Too bad i and so many others who DARE post here on Physorg soak up s


Tolling trolling trolling down a river.

I wasn't even on this thread and the Qtwit starts lying about me here.

He lies a lot. Claims to be a physicist. He clearly is just a troll. All green and scaly from hiding under bridges and rocks.

I have the Net. I don't need to know everything myself. You should try using sometime. For something besides frothing at the mouth much like Pat Robertson.

Thanks for the entertainment Qtroll.

Ethelred

Sorry for the new signature. But It Needed Killun.

From QubitTamer's fake profile

Quantum Physicist, torturer of AGW religious zealots like Ethelred because i laugh at his hysterics.


Qubitwit gets the rest of August in my signature for aiming his idiocy at me. Again.