Earth's Oceans In Greater Danger Than We Thought
October 3, 2013

Earth’s Oceans In Greater Danger Than We Thought, Says IPSO Report

[ Watch the Video: Oceans In Peril? ]

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

A panel of marine scientists claims that the Earth's oceans are under an even greater threat than previously thought. The International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) conducted a review on ocean degradation based on the rate, speed and impacts of climate change on the Earth's waters. The panel found that the oceans are facing even greater, faster and more imminent changes than once believed.

The IPSO warns that the ocean is absorbing much of the warming as well as unprecedented levels of carbon dioxide. They say that this impact, along with other stressors, is greater than previous estimates made by the UN's climate panel.

According to the report, the decreasing oxygen level in the ocean, caused by climate change and nitrogen run-off, is working along with chemical pollution and overfishing to undermine the ability of the oceans to withstand these "carbon perturbations."

“The health of the ocean is spiraling downwards far more rapidly than we had thought. We are seeing greater change, happening faster, and the effects are more imminent than previously anticipated," Professor Alex Rogers of Somerville College and Scientific Director of IPSO said in a statement. "The situation should be of the gravest concern to everyone since everyone will be affected by changes in the ability of the ocean to support life on Earth.”

Researchers wrote in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin that ocean oxygen content will decline by somewhere between one and seven percent by the year 2100. They said this is occurring because the broad trend of decreasing oxygen levels in the tropical oceans and areas of the North Pacific over the last 50 years. Oxygen level decline is also due in part to the dramatic increase in coastal eutrophication, which is caused by an increased nutrient runoff from agriculture and sewage.

Ocean life is also being threatened by greater levels of acidification, researchers said. The study found that carbon dioxide concentrations will rise to 450 and 500 ppm by sometime between 2030 and 2050, which will likely result in the extinction of some species and an overall decline in biodiversity.

The team said a "deadly trio" of acidification, deoxygenation and warming is seriously affecting how productive and efficient the ocean is. If things do not change, the IPSO warns that many organisms will find themselves in unsuitable environments, which could have cascading consequences for marine ecosystems, including altered food web dynamics and the expansion of pathogens.

“What these latest reports make absolutely clear is that deferring action will increase costs in the future and lead to even greater, perhaps irreversible, losses," International Union for Conservation of Nature's Dan Laffoley said in a statement.

"The UN climate report confirmed that the ocean is bearing the brunt of human-induced changes to our planet. These findings give us more cause for alarm – but also a roadmap for action. We must use it."