Monday, June 27, 2011

Oceans face 'mass extinction'

Oceans on brink of catastrophe
Marine life facing mass extinction 'within one human generation'
State of seas 'much worse than we thought' says global panel of scientists

The Indepedent: The world's oceans are faced with an unprecedented loss of species comparable to the great mass extinctions of prehistory, a major report suggests... The seas are degenerating far faster than anyone has predicted because of the cumulative impact of a number of severe individual stresses, ranging from climate warming and sea-water acidification, to widespread chemical pollution and gross overfishing.

The coming together of these factors is now threatening the marine environment with a catastrophe 'unprecedented in human history,' according to the report, from a panel of leading marine scientists brought together... by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The stark suggestion made by the panel is that the potential extinction of species, from large fish on one end of the scale to tiny corals at the other, is directly comparable to the five great mass extinctions in the geological record, during each of which much of the world's life died out... The panel of 27 scientists... also concluded:
  • The speed and rate of degeneration of the oceans is far faster than anyone has predicted;
  • Many of the negative impacts identified are greater than the worst predictions;
  • The first steps to globally significant extinction may have already begun.
BBC News: The findings are 'shocking,' said Alex Rogers, IPSO's scientific director...IPSO's immediate recommendations include:
  • Stopping exploitative fishing now, with special emphasis on the high seas where currently there is little effective regulation;
  • Mapping and then reducing the input of pollutants including plastics, agricultural fertilisers and human waste;
  • Making sharp reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
Carbon dioxide levels are now so high, it says, that ways of pulling the gas out of the atmosphere need to be researched urgently -- but not using techniques, such as iron fertilisation, that lead to more CO2 entering the oceans. 'We have to bring down CO2 emissions to zero within about 20 years,' Professor Hoegh-Guildberg told BBC News. 'If we don't do that... we'll see a very different ocean.'
Image: millions of dead anchovies floating at a marina in Redondo Beach, California, in March; source here.