The lead author of a comprehensive new survey of the world’s oceans offers of offers a stark summation of his findings: “The rate of change underway in our oceans is faster than at any point we know of in geological history.”
What is at stake is nothing less than the entire ecosystem covering 71 percent of the planet’s surface, the foundation on which all life on earth is based.
From Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh:
New research from Heriot-Watt, published on open-access journal Elementa today, shows that food supply to some areas of the Earth’s deep oceans will decline by up to half by 2100.
Dr Andrew Sweetman, associate professor at the Lyell Centre for Earth and Marine Science, and colleagues from 20 of the world’s leading oceanographic research centres have used earth system models and projected climate change scenarios, developed for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to quantify impending changes to deep oceans.
The team looked at a number of sea and ocean beds, from the Arctic to Antarctic Oceans, focusing on bathyal (200-3000m) and abyssal (3000-6000m) depths. As well as measuring how the deep oceans’ food sources will decline, the team examined the impact that increased seabed temperatures, declining oxygen levels and increasingly acidic seawater will have, under the sea and across the planet.
Sweetman, associate professor at Heriot-Watt’s Lyell Centre for Earth and Marine Science and Technology, said: “The rate of change underway in our oceans is faster than at any point we know of in geological history.
“Deep seafloor ecosystems provide services that are vitally important to the entire ocean and biosphere; we should all be concerned at what’s happening on our ocean floors.”
Most of the deep sea currently experiences a severe lack of food, but according to Dr Sweetman and his research team, it is about to face a famine.
Sweetman continued: “Abyssal ocean environments, which are over 3000m deep, are some of the most food-deprived regions on the planet.
“These habitats currently rely on less carbon per m2 each year than is present in a single sugar cube.
“We’ve shown that large areas of the abyss will have this tiny amount of food halved by 2100. For a habitat that covers half the earth, the impacts of this will be enormous.”