Large marine ecosystems at risk

Last week the UN Development Programme and the Global Environment Facility published a book entitled Frontline Observations on Climate Change and Sustainability of Large Marine Ecosystems. With examples from around the world the book illustrates that all is not well with our planet’s oceans.

GallonDaily recommends this publication because of its readability and excellent illustrations. For those who are aware of the impacts of ocean acidification this book provides an update and some very specific examples. For those who are not so aware of how the ecology, and hence the productivity, of our oceans is changing, this text provides a fairly easy to read but still science-based account of what is going on in various locations as well as in the oceans as a whole.

Just two quotes from Chapter 10, by James R.D. Oliver of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and colleagues, help to illustrate the rest of the book:

If ocean acidification continues to proceed as many predict, many commercial interests, from commercial and recreational fishing to tourism, as well as ecosystem services such as the protection of shorelines by coral reefs, are likely to be harmed. More difficult to quantify are the cultural and lifestyle changes that communities will have to make to adapt to changing marine ecosystems. Ocean acidification is therefore not just a problem for corals and other marine life. It has the potential to change the way humans feed themselves, earn their livings, run their communities, and live their lives.

Ocean acidification is no longer a theoretical marine chemistry issue. The trend towards more acidic ocean conditions is already being measured in the open ocean, and this has been recorded with increasing accuracy in recent years through the Hawaii Ocean Time-series and the Bermuda Atlantic Time-series. As acidity and sea temperature increase, the ocean’s ability to absorb atmospheric CO2 will be reduced, thus exacerbating the rate of climate change. Since 2005, major scientific studies have started around the world and although there are many unanswered questions, there is considerable scientific consensus that ocean acidification is both real and is a major threat to our way of life.

A press release announcing the publication and a link to the complete book (free) are at http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/presscenter/pressreleases/2012/06/19/climate-change-is-degrading-marine-habitats-and-threatening-fish-supplies-worldwide.html

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