Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Greenhouse Ocean Study Offers Warning for Future

18.05.2011
The mass extinction of marine life in our oceans during prehistoric times is a warning that the Earth will see such an extinction again because of high levels of greenhouse gases, according to new research by geologists.

Professor Martin Kennedy from the University of Adelaide (School of Earth & Environmental Sciences) and Professor Thomas Wagner from Newcastle University (Civil Engineering and Geosciences) have been studying 'greenhouse oceans' – oceans that have been depleted of oxygen and suffered from increases in carbon dioxide and temperature.

Using core samples drilled from the ocean bed off the coast of western Africa, the researchers studied layers of sediment from the Late Cretaceous Period (85 million years ago) across a 400,000-year timespan. They found a significant amount of organic material – marine life – buried within deoxygenated layers of the sediment.

"Our research points to a mass mortality in the oceans at a time when the Earth was going through a greenhouse effect, with high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and rising temperatures, leading to a severe lack of oxygen (hypoxia) in the water that marine animals are dependent on," Professor Kennedy says.

"What's alarming to us as scientists is that there were only very slight natural changes that resulted in the onset of hypoxia in the deep ocean. This occurred relatively rapidly – in periods of hundreds of years, or possibly even less – not gradually over longer, geological time scales, which suggests that the Earth's oceans are in a much more delicate balance during greenhouse conditions than originally thought, and may respond in a more abrupt fashion to even subtle changes in temperature and CO2 levels than previously thought."

Professor Wagner says the results of their research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), have relevance for our modern world: "We know that 'dead zones' are rapidly growing in size and number in seas and oceans across the globe. These are areas of water that are lacking in oxygen and are suffering from increases of CO2, rising temperatures, nutrient run-off from agriculture and other factors."

Professor Kennedy says: "If you consider that the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere has doubled over the past 50 years, this is like hitting our ecosystem with a sledge-hammer compared to the very small changes in incoming solar energy (radiation) which was capable of triggering these events in the past. This could have a catastrophic, profound impact on the sustainability of life in our oceans, which in turn is likely to impact on the sustainability of life for many land-based species, including humankind."

Professor Kennedy says the geological record offers a glimmer of hope thanks to a naturally occurring response to greenhouse conditions.

"After a hypoxic phase, oxygen concentration in the ocean seems to improve, and marine life returns. Our results show that natural processes of carbon burial kick in. Importantly, this rescue comes from the land, with soil-formed minerals acting to collect and bury excess dissolved organic matter in seawater. Burial of that excess carbon ultimately contributes to CO2 removal from the atmosphere, cooling the planet and the ocean.

"This is nature's solution to the greenhouse effect and it could offer a possible solution for us. If we are able to learn more about this effect and its feedbacks, we may be able to manage it, and reduce the present rate of warming threatening our oceans."

Media contacts:

Professor Martin Kennedy
Discipline of Geology & Geophysics
School of Earth & Environmental Sciences
The University of Adelaide
Phone: +61 8 8303 5378
Cell phone: +61 428 002 556
martin.kennedy@adelaide.edu.au
Professor Thomas Wagner
Professor of Earth System Science
Civil Engineering and Geosciences
Newcastle University
Phone: +44 (0) 191 222 7893
thomas.wagner@ncl.ac.uk
Louella Houldcroft
Media Relations Manager
Newcastle University, UK
Phone: +44 191 222 5108
Cell phone: +44 7989 850 511
press.office@ncl.ac.uk
David Ellis
Media Officer
The University of Adelaide
Phone: +61 8 8303 5414
Cell phone: +61 421 612 762
david.ellis@adelaide.edu.au

David Ellis | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.adelaide.edu.au
http://www.ncl.ac.uk

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Predicting eruptions using satellites and math
28.06.2017 | Frontiers

nachricht NASA sees quick development of Hurricane Dora
27.06.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Extensive Funding for Research on Chromatin, Adrenal Gland, and Cancer Therapy

28.06.2017 | Awards Funding

Predicting eruptions using satellites and math

28.06.2017 | Earth Sciences

Extremely fine measurements of motion in orbiting supermassive black holes

28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>