Unless Drastic Protection Policies Are Put In Place Marine Species Are At Risk
August 21, 2012

Unless Drastic Protection Policies Are Put In Place Marine Species Are At Risk

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

If the levels of carbon dioxide continue to increase many marine species will be harmed or won't survive

It is doubtful that the current protection policies and management practices will be enough to save them. If various marine species are to survive, unconventional, non-passive methods to conserve marine ecosystems need to be considered.

A group of scientists led by University of California, Santa Cruz researcher and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory visiting scientist Greg Rau, and includes Elizabeth McLeod of The Nature Conservancy in Hawaii and Ove Hoegh-Guldberg of the University of Queensland in Australia came to this conclusion.

With the concentration of atmospheric CO² increasing, it is thermally and chemically impacting the ocean and its ecosystems, namely warming and acidifying the oceans. The globe will likely warm by at least 2 degrees Celsius by the middle of this century and the oceans will experience a more than 60 percent increase in acidity relative to pre-industrial levels.

"Our concern is that the specific actions to counter such impacts as identified in current policy statements will prove inadequate or ineffective," say the authors. "A much broader evaluation of marine management and mitigation options must now be seriously considered."

A significant fraction of carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere is passively taken up by the ocean in a form that makes the ocean more acidic. It has been shown that this acidification is harmful to many species of marine life, especially corals and shellfish.

Earlier research has shown that ocean acidification can retard growth and reproduction, cause exoskeletal components to decay, reduce activity and threaten the survival of marine life including coral reefs.

To address ocean warming and acidification current marine policy recommends three calls to action: stabilize or reduce atmospheric CO² levels; increase monitoring to better understand and predict the ocean's physical, chemical and biological responses to elevated CO²; and preserve ecosystem resilience and adaptability by reducing non-CO² related environmental threats.

Even though Rau and colleagues agree with the current policies, they think that these alone are not going to be enough.

"We are concerned that conventional marine environmental management methods may prove to be insufficient or not fully achievable in the time frame necessary to ensure the preservation of current marine ecosystems and their services in the face of CO²-related threats," Rau said.

To determine which, if any, might satisfy the 1992 Convention of Biological Diversity's call for cost-effective prevention of environmental degradation, the team suggests that policy makers solicit and evaluate all potential marine management strategies

The paper is published in the Aug. 19 edition of the journal, Nature Climate Change.