“.. an extinction unprecedented in human history.”
June 23, 2011
While I’m working very hard to shift gears to some sunny solutions videos, I still have to keep up with the drumbeat of not-so-welcome warnings from our scientific community.
An international panel of marine experts warns in a new report that the world’s ocean is at high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history.
The preliminary report arises from the first ever interdisciplinary international workshop to consider the cumulative impact of all stressors affecting the ocean. Considering the latest research across all areas of marine science, the workshop examined the combined effects of pollution, acidification, ocean warming, overfishing and hypoxia (deoxygenation).
The scientific panel concluded that:
- The combination of stressors on the ocean is creating the conditions associated with every previous major extinction of species in Earth’s history.
- The speed and rate of degeneration in the ocean is far faster than anyone has predicted.
- Many of the negative impacts previously identified are greater than the worst predictions.
- Although difficult to assess because of the unprecedented speed of change, the first steps to globally significant extinction may have begun with a rise in the extinction threat to marine species such as reef- forming corals.
Dr Alex Rogers, (see video above) Scientific Director of the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) which convened the workshop said: “The findings are shocking. As we considered the cumulative effect of what humankind does to the ocean the implications became far worse than we had individually realized. This is a very serious situation demanding unequivocal action at every level. We are looking at consequences for humankind that will impact in our lifetime, and worse, our children’s and generations beyond that.”
The problems are multidimensional, as the panel pointed out.
As examples, the panel point out:
- The rate at which carbon is being absorbed by the ocean is already far greater now than at the time of the last globally significant extinction of marine species, some 55 million years ago, when up to 50% of some groups of deep-sea animals were wiped out.
- A single mass coral bleaching event in 1998 killed 16% of all the world’s tropical coral reefs.
- Overfishing has reduced some commercial fish stocks and populations of by- catch species by more than 90%.
- New science also suggests that pollutants including flame retardant chemicals and synthetic musks found in detergents are being traced in the Polar Seas, and that these chemicals can be absorbed by tiny plastic particles in the ocean which are in turn ingested by marine creatures.
I don’t want it to be true. But we need to pay attention to what our experts are telling us, if we hope to deal effectively with the issues they identify. We have the solutions – this blog is about identifying the problems, showing the solutions, and finding the will to do what has to be done.