The ocean is under significant impact by anthropogenic global pressures such as ocean acidification, warming, overfishing and pollution, resulting from the impact of human activity on major processes that regulate the functions of the planet, warns the head of The University of Western Australia's Oceans Institute. One of the global leaders in ocean science, Professor Carlos Duarte has shared his insights on the future of the world's oceans in a paper published in the international journal Frontiers in Marine Science.
The ocean is undergoing global changes at a remarkable pace. Dependence on resources including water, energy and key elements has prompted a suite of changes at the global scale and humanity is now facing the impacts of climate change, a loss of biodiversity and deteriorating water quality. Oceans are impacted by significant anthropogenic pressures such as ocean acidification, overfishing, warming, hypoxia, eutrophication, pollution and increased UV radiation.
Together with human settlement in coastal areas, changes in land use in watersheds and river regulation through massive construction of reservoirs over the past 60 years have affected the delivery of materials, from sediments and organic matter to nitrogen, phosphorus, silica and other elements with an important role in the ocean. Efficient atmospheric transport also delivers dust, organic carbon, nitrogen and pollutants to the most remote regions of the ocean, serving as an effective conduit of anthropogenic materials to the ocean.
Within decades, ocean acidification will also start to have major impacts on temperate and polar water ecosystems. In fact, colder water absorbs higher levels of CO2 than warmer water. Our polar seas are already so acidic that they are starting to dissolve some shells.
Professor Duarte explained that a number of conclusions can be forecast by analyzing current ocean trends. By the end of the twenty-first Century the oceans will be warmer, with a reduced ice extent, higher sea levels, more acidic and with somewhat lower oxygen levels than at present.
Professor Duarte advises that policy makers, the public and the scientific community should accept change as a prerequisite to manage it. He emphasizes the need for partnerships to frame research findings in effective ways and foster widespread action.
"The future ocean will be, no doubt, different in many ways from the ocean we enjoy today, but we can still direct that change. In order to get back behind the steering wheel the goals of policy makers, the public and scientists must converge to guide this change in order to achieve our best possible future ocean." Professor Carlos Duarte
Professor Carlos Duarte was recently appointed Editor-in-Chief of the newly launched journal and will maintain a position with the UWA as an Adjunct Professor following his departure from the UWA Oceans Institute. The UWA Oceans Institute strives to deliver ocean-based solutions for humanity's grand challenges.
Featured image: Coral reefs seen during snorkeling (Credit: ccharmon/flickr)