Under the sea

Ocean ecosystems are very complex. Climate change could change these ecosystems dramatically, proving disastrous for some species. The World Conservation Monitoring Centre highlights pressures brought on by global warming that they project will particularly affect ocean life:

I Increasing carbon dioxide in the water: When the ocean water takes in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the carbon dioxide dissolves, becoming carbonic acid, which makes the water more acidic. Raising the water's acidity negatively affects shell building for sea snails or coral, and when those species are endangered, so are all the species that prey on them or (in the case of reefs) live in and depend on them.

I Increasing water temperature: Many ocean species are sensitive to the temperature of the water. Coral reefs, for example, have been shown to suffer badly from higher water temperatures. The Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia is at risk.

I Shifting ocean movements: The ocean is constantly in motion, with a vast conveyer belt of currents that carry warmth to cooler parts of the globe (and vice versa). These currents provide food sources for other sea creatures. Increased fresh meltwater from polar ice, brought on by climate change, has the potential to shift, stall, or stop ocean currents altogether. (Refer to Chapter 7 for more information on the potential impact on ocean currents.) Currents influence the heat transfer in ocean environments, and changes in how warm water moves around can have consequences for temperature-sensitive species.

The impact of these changes will be different throughout the oceans of the world.

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