Panel: Problems with oceans multiplying, worsening

June 20, 2011 By SETH BORENSTEIN , AP Science Writer

(AP) -- The health of the world's oceans is declining much faster than originally thought - under siege from pollution, overfishing and other man-made problems all at once - scientists say in a new report.

The mix of interacting ingredients is in place for a in the world's oceans, said a report by a top panel of scientists that will be presented to the United Nations on Tuesday.

The report says the troubles from global warming and other factors are worse when they combine with each other. Factors include dead zones from farm run-off, an increase in acidity from too much , and melting , along with .

"Things seem to be going wrong on several different levels," said Carl Lundin, director of global marine programs at the International Union for , which helped produce the report with the International Programme on the State of the . The conclusions follow an international meeting this spring in England to discuss the fate of the world's oceans.

Some of the changes affecting the world's seas - all of which have been warned about individually in the past - are happening faster than the worst case scenarios that were predicted just a few years ago, the report said.

"It was a more dire report than any of us thought because we look at our own little issues," Lundin said in an interview. "When you put them all together, it's a pretty bleak situation."

The combination of problems suggests there's a brewing worldwide die-off of species that would rival past mass extinctions, scientists said in the document. Coral deaths alone would be considered a mass extinction, according to study chief author Alex Rogers of the University of Oxford. A single bleaching event in 1998 killed one-sixth of the world's tropical coral reefs.

Lundin pointed to deaths of 1,000-year-old coral in the Indian Ocean and called it "really unprecedented."

"We now face losing and entire , such as coral reefs, within a single generation," the report said.

"Multiple high intensity" factors also led to the previous five mass extinction events in the past 600 million years, the scientists note.

The chief causes for extinctions at the moment are overfishing and habitat loss, but global warming is "increasingly adding to this," the report said.

Carbon dioxide from the burning of coal and other fossil fuels ends up sinking in the ocean which then becomes more acidic. Warmer ocean temperatures also are shifting species from their normal habitats, Rogers said. Add to that melting sea ice and glaciers.

Chemicals and plastics from daily life are also causing problems for sea creatures, the report said. Overall, the world's oceans just can't bounce back from problems - such as oil spills - like they used to, scientists said.

However, Lundin said, "Some of these things are reversible if we change our behavior."

A separate study released Monday, unrelated to the international project, provided the most detailed look yet of sea level rise from . It found the world's oceans have been rising significantly over the past century. The yearly rise is slightly less than one-tenth of an inch, but it adds up over decades, according to the study based on sediment cores from North Carolina marshes. That study was published in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Explore further: World's coral reefs could be gone by 2050: study

More information: State of the Ocean report:


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3 / 5 (2) Jun 20, 2011
5 / 5 (3) Jun 20, 2011
If someone(s) writes a report that says we are doing damage to mother nature, so often we poo-poo the science and assassinate their character. We look for flaw in their report because, just as this article states, often they are only looking at their own area of expertise. So we make them look bad cause we can. Historically the human race does very little monolithically. We don't unite unless there is a monolithic threat of Biblical/IMMEDIATELY EVIDENT PROPORTIONS and it is like right there in our faces. Humanity has never had a NATURAL catastrophe like that, just stuff we did to each other, WWI, WWII, Chernobyl, etc. Climate change - no way; Too much Mercury in the sea - no way; We want to eat ALL the fish at every meal, plant condos where there were rain forests, and drill oil wells that leak for two months and better NOT NOBODY try to stop us.
At this rate, in a 100,000 years, the human race will have been gone for 99,000 years and a day. Darn I Am goin to miss us!
3 / 5 (4) Jun 20, 2011
You know, you a so correct about your observations on human behavior. What I find most disturbing in this, is how the conservatives have somehow taken issue with the very dire warnings our scientists are giving and that political group will show up hear to "SPIN" an article. Watch what will happen.

We are just beginning to see the first effects of GW. Many of the feed-back cycles are just starting, and by 2050 I doubt that there will be anything that can be done to stop all of the feed backs from warmer temperatures, and we will see a mass extinction event.

5 / 5 (2) Jun 20, 2011
Lundin said, "Some of these things are reversible if we change our behavior." -- I guess that means not all of these things are reversible. That is not good news.
5 / 5 (1) Jun 21, 2011
It seems obvious that we need an earlier mass extinction event. Of humans. Surely some elite are thinking this? Damn. There goes all the time I spent on my pension.
5 / 5 (2) Jun 21, 2011
The vast majority of people, especially in the affluent west, do not want to acknowledge the existence of multiple threats to the environment and are in a perpetual state of denial that humans can so profoundly affect the planet in such a short period of time. Anything that threatens these peoples cosy materialistic way of life is vehemently denounced and vilified and they will continue to do so right up until it is far too late.

Each of us is like a drop of falling rainwater - individually, whilst going about our everyday lives, we mistakenly believe that we have little or no impact. However, in our billions we combine into an unstoppable torrent that will irrevocably damage this planet forever.

Unless we immediately make radical efforts to curb and then reverse the multi-faceted ways in which we are damaging every natural environment on the planet, we are dooming our descendants to a severely impoverished world - a world unfit for the long term viability of the human race.
1 / 5 (4) Jun 21, 2011
This BBC story seems to be based on nothing more than an unpublished, unchecked opinion, and some pal review amongst activists at a three day conference with Greenpeace activists. It's a regurgitated press release with no peer reviewed publication yet.

Jun 21, 2011
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5 / 5 (2) Jun 23, 2011
I'm sorry but did you read the article then follow the link?

Of course not, so here you are:

based on nothing more than an unpublished, unchecked opinion

opinion huh? sir opinions is what you hear on foxnews, msnbc and other news channel. Not research outfits.

some pal review amongst activists at a three day conference with Greenpeace activists.

Pal review = people in the field but saying pal makes it sound shady (good strategy). Throwing greenpeace in there clearly discredits the conference. Are you just a little bias here?

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