World ocean systems undermined by climate change by 2100

Published paper
 
Climate change caused by human activity could damage biological and social systems. Here we gathered climate, biological, and socioeconomic data to describe some of the events by which ocean biogeochemical changes triggered by ongoing greenhouse gas emissions could cascade through marine habitats and organisms, eventually influencing humans. Our results suggest that the entire world’s ocean surface will be simultaneously impacted by varying intensities of ocean warming, acidification, oxygen depletion, or shortfalls in productivity. Only a very small fraction of the oceans, mostly in polar regions, will face the opposing effects of increases in oxygen or productivity, and almost nowhere will there be cooling or pH increase. The biological responses to such biogeochemical changes could be considerable since marine habitats and hotspots for several marine taxa will be simultaneously exposed to biogeochemical changes known to be deleterious. The social ramifications are also likely to be massive and challenging as some 470 to 870 million people – who can least afford dramatic changes to their livelihoods – live in areas where ocean goods and services could be compromised by substantial changes in ocean biogeochemistry. These results underline the need for urgent mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions if degradation of marine ecosystems and associated human hardship are to be prevented.
 
This recent study, led by the University of Hawaii and involving biologist Jeroen Ingels (Marine Biology - Plymouth Marine Laboratory), has been published in PLoS Biology (you can read the article here). In the article, these scientists warn against the high risk of degradation of marine ecosystems and human hardships.  Previous analyses have focused mainly on ocean warming and acidification, considerably underestimating the biological and social consequences of climate change. 
 
You can read press releases (in Dutch and English) and an article from the Los Angeles Times in our 'In the media' section. 
 
Picture: Corals in the Whittard Canyon, North-Atlantic Ocean, taken by the ROV Genesis. This is a habitat that will also be affected by biogeochemical changes. © UGent, ROV Genesis.