An alarming new study has revealed that the oceans' food chains are in danger of collapse from the threat of climate change.
Climate change is bad. It threatens to shift entire ecosystems in unknown directions, and could very well change the nature of life’s existence on the planet Earth. No species will be spared from the effects of climate change, from the animals on the highest mountains to the creatures that inhabit the depths of the ocean.
According to a press release from Eurekalert, an alarming new study projects a dismal future for the food chains that support global fisheries and maritime environments as a result of ever-increasing CO2 emissions.
Researchers from the University of Adelaide published their findings in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday. The study warns that warming and acidification of the world’s oceans would lead to the destruction of essential species that support crucial food webs. This could lead to a devastating loss of biodiversity in the oceans, including countless species upon which humans rely for a number of reasons.
This ‘ocean simplification,’ as researchers put it, could hit coastal populations especially hard. Associate professor and Australian Research Council Future Fellow at the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute, Ivan Nagelkerken, says that human trade patterns could suffer greatly as a result.
Nagelkerken and fellow professor and marine ecologist Sean Connell performed a literature review of 632 studies ranging from arctic to tropical environments and covering ecosystems from reefs to kelp forests. They worried about the lack of projections of the effects of climate change on the world’s oceans and decided to take action.
This is one of the first comprehensive, quantitative studies that examines the overall effects of climate change on ocean environments and ecosystems. The team combed through the available research to determine how different species would react to various measures of climate change.
Their findings were grim. They discovered that very few species in tropical waters would survive the acidification and warming of the ocean as a result of increasing CO2 emissions, with similar results in populations around the world. Interestingly, their analysis showed an expected increase in many microorganism species.
While phytoplankton, or microscopic organisms that float and photosynthesize, are expected to increase in numbers, a decrease in secondary producers, the zooplankton that feed on these algae, are expected to drop off in numbers as a result of the changes to the ocean. This will result in a net decrease of species as there will be no food for the smallest fish and crustaceans to consume.
Professor Nagelkerken explains that warmer water increases animals’ metabolic rates, creating a higher demand for food. As a result of the decreasing zooplankton numbers, competition will become fierce until only the hardiest species remain.