New IUCN Report on Ocean Oxygen Loss Gives ‘Ultimate Wake-Up Call’ to Act on Climate

ENVIRONMENT, 9 Dec 2019

Andrea Germanos | Common Dreams – TRANSCEND Media Service

“Decisions taken at the ongoing climate conference will determine whether our ocean continues to sustain a rich variety of life, or whether habitable, oxygen-rich marine areas are increasingly, progressively, and irrevocably lost.”

Bluefin Trevally and Leather Bass hunting together off the Revillagigedo Islands, Mexico. (Photo: Reinhard Dirscherl/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

7 Dec 2019 – A new report on ocean oxygen loss released today should serve as the “ultimate wake-up call” to take bold action to rein in planet-warming emissions and save the world’s “suffocating seas,” researchers said.

The publication from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) shows how the problem known as ocean deoxygenation, driven by global warming and human-caused nutrient pollution, is expanding, with impacts on humans and marine ecosystems alike.

“With this report, the scale of damage climate change is wreaking upon the ocean comes into stark focus. As the warming ocean loses oxygen, the delicate balance of marine life is thrown into disarray,” said IUCN acting director general Dr. Grethel Aguilar.

Representing the expertise of over five dozens scientists across 17 countries, the report is framed as “the largest peer-reviewed study conducted so far on ocean deoxygenation.”

Driving the problem is climate change, both directly, as oxygen is less soluble in warmer waters, and indirectly by affecting ocean dynamics. Deoxygenation is also being fueled by nutrient pollution, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, from sewage, agriculture, and aquaculture. Those factors are summed up in an infographic from IUCN:

A four-minute video entitled “A Breathless Ocean” released by the IUCN explains the process:

Another clip explains the process further:

The researchers found that from 1960-2010 overall ocean oxygen reserves fell by 2%, and they say the level could drop by as much as a further 7% by 2100.

While there were just 45 ocean sites around the world with low oxygen conditions in the 1960s, 700 such sites now exist. The number of areas in the global ocean depleted of oxygen, or anoxic waters, has quadrupled, the report found.

That’s bad news, because changes in oxygen levels mess with species distribution. Species like jellyfish want low-oxygen areas, but low-oxygen sensitive ones, including most fish, don’t.

Those species are then driven to other areas not affected by deoxygenation, but that can leave them susceptible to over-fishing by commercial operations.

Humans dependent on the affected species, especially smaller-scale fisheries, are adversely impacted. Communities may have a reduced catch or are forced to spend more to obtain the afected species—impacts that threaten not only nutrient loss but cultural loss.

“We are now seeing increasingly low levels of dissolved oxygen across large areas of the open ocean. This is perhaps the ultimate wake-up call from the uncontrolled experiment humanity is unleashing on the world’s ocean as carbon emissions continue to increase,” said report co-editor Dan Laffoley, the principal advisor on Marine Science and Conservation for IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Program.

“To stop the worrying expansion of oxygen-poor areas,” said Laffoley, “we need to decisively curb greenhouse gas emissions as well as nutrient pollution from agriculture and other sources.”

That points to action global leaders must commit to right now as they attend COP 25.

According to Minna Epps, IUCN Global Marine and Polar Program director, “Decisions taken at the ongoing climate conference will determine whether our ocean continues to sustain a rich variety of life, or whether habitable, oxygen-rich marine areas are increasingly, progressively, and irrevocably lost.”

_______________________________________________

Andrea Germanos is senior editor and a staff writer at Common Dreams.

Our work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share widely.

Go to Original – commondreams.org


Tags: , , , , ,

 

Share this article:


DISCLAIMER: The statements, views and opinions expressed in pieces republished here are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of TMS. In accordance with title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. TMS has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is TMS endorsed or sponsored by the originator. “GO TO ORIGINAL” links are provided as a convenience to our readers and allow for verification of authenticity. However, as originating pages are often updated by their originating host sites, the versions posted may not match the versions our readers view when clicking the “GO TO ORIGINAL” links. This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


There are no comments so far.

Join the discussion!

We welcome debate and dissent, but personal — ad hominem — attacks (on authors, other users or any individual), abuse and defamatory language will not be tolerated. Nor will we tolerate attempts to deliberately disrupt discussions. We aim to maintain an inviting space to focus on intelligent interactions and debates.

*

code

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.