Oceans Careening Toward Mass Extinction

Thanks to a whole raft of issues 'unprecedented in Earth's known history'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 3, 2013 7:40 AM CDT
Oceans Careening Toward Mass Extinction
Fish swim amongst bleached coral near the Keppel Islands in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia.   (AP Photo/Centre for Marine Studies, The University of Queensland, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, File)

Our oceans are in bad shape—so bad in fact, that a mass extinction may already be under way, thanks to a deadly intersection of global warming, declining oxygen, and acidification, plus overfishing and pollution, the Guardian and Reuters report. A new study from the International Program on the State of the Ocean explains that oceans have guarded us from the worst effects of climate change, but are now facing devastating issues at a scale and rate "unprecedented in Earth's known history." For the most part, "the public and policymakers are failing to recognize—or choosing to ignore—the severity of the situation," the report states.

"We are seeing effects that no one predicted like the inability of fish to detect their environments properly. It’s clear that it will affect many species," an Oxford biology prof tells the BBC. Coral reefs—vital to the health of fisheries—are especially in danger, and could stop growing or dissolve if ocean temperatures rise a few more degrees. Another scary fact: carbon is being released 10 times faster today than before the last major extinction 55 million years ago. A co-chair of the Global Ocean Commission warns "governments must respond as urgently as they do to national security threats—in the long run, the impacts are just as important." (Click to see how gauging ocean acidification could net you $2 million.)

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