Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Accelerating Loss of Ocean Species Threatens Human Well-being

03.11.2006
Current trend projects collapse of all currently fished seafoods before 2050

In a study published in the November 3 issue of the journal, Science, an international group of ecologists and economists show that the loss of biodiversity is profoundly reducing the ocean’s ability to produce seafood, resist diseases, filter pollutants, and rebound from stresses such as over fishing and climate change. The study reveals that every species lost causes a faster unraveling of the overall ecosystem. Conversely every species recovered adds significantly to overall productivity and stability of the ecosystem and its ability to withstand stresses.

“Whether we looked at tide pools or studies over the entire world’s ocean, we saw the same picture emerging,” says lead author Boris Worm of Dalhousie University. “In losing species we lose the productivity and stability of entire ecosystems. I was shocked and disturbed by how consistent these trends are - beyond anything we suspected.”

The four-year analysis is the first to examine all existing data on ocean species and ecosystems, synthesizing historical, experimental, fisheries, and observational datasets to understand the importance of biodiversity at the global scale.

The results reveal global trends that mirror what scientists have observed at smaller scales, and they prove that progressive biodiversity loss not only impairs the ability of oceans to feed a growing human population, but also sabotages the stability of marine environments and their ability to recover from stresses. Every species matters.

“For generations, people have admired the denizens of the sea for their size, ferocity, strength or beauty. But as this study shows, the animals and plants that inhabit the sea are not merely embellishments to be wondered at,” says Callum Roberts, a Professor at the University of York, who was not involved in the study. “They are essential to the health of the oceans and the well-being of human society.”

“This analysis provides the best documentation I have ever seen regarding biodiversity’s value,” adds Peter Kareiva, a former Brown University professor and US government fisheries manager who now lead science efforts at The Nature Conservancy. “There is no way the world will protect biodiversity without this type of compelling data demonstrating the economic value of biodiversity.”

The good news is that the data show that ocean ecosystems still hold great ability to rebound. However, the current global trend is a serious concern: it projects the collapse of all species of wild seafood that are currently fished by the year 2050 (collapse is defined as 90% depletion).

Collapses are also hastened by the decline in overall health of the ecosystem – fish rely on the clean water, prey populations and diverse habitats that are linked to higher diversity systems. This points to the need for managers to consider all species together rather than continuing with single species management.

“Unless we fundamentally change the way we manage all the oceans species together, as working ecosystems, then this century is the last century of wild seafood,” says co-author Steve Palumbi of Stanford University.

The impacts of species loss go beyond declines in seafood. Human health risks emerge as depleted coastal ecosystems become vulnerable to invasive species, disease outbreaks and noxious algal blooms.

Many of the economic activities along our coasts rely on diverse systems and the healthy waters they supply. “The ocean is a great recycler,” explains Palumbi, “It takes sewage and recycles it into nutrients, it scrubs toxins out of the water, and it produces food and turns carbon dioxide into food and oxygen.” But in order to provide these services, the ocean needs all its working parts, the millions of plant and animal species that inhabit the sea.

The strength of the study is the consistent agreement of theory, experiments and observations across widely different scales and ecosystems. The study analyzed 32 controlled experiments, observational studies from 48 marine protected areas, and global catch data from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) database of all fish and invertebrates worldwide from 1950 to 2003. The scientists also looked at a 1000-year time series for 12 coastal regions, drawing on data from archives, fishery records, sediment cores and archeological data.

“We see an accelerating decline in coastal species over the last 1000 years, resulting in the loss of biological filter capacity, nursery habitats, and healthy fisheries,” says co-author Heike Lotze of Dalhousie University who led the historical analysis of Chesapeake Bay, San Francisco Bay, the Bay of Fundy, and the North Sea, among others.

The scientists note that a pressing question for management is whether losses can be reversed. If species have not been pushed too far down, recovery can be fast — but there is also a point of no return as seen with species like northern Atlantic cod.

Examination of protected areas worldwide show that restoration of biodiversity increased productivity four-fold in terms of catch per unit effort and made ecosystems 21% less susceptible to environmental and human caused fluctuations on average.

“The data show us it’s not too late,” says Worm. “We can turn this around. But less than one percent of the global ocean is effectively protected right now. We won’t see complete recovery in one year, but in many cases species come back more quickly than people anticipated — in three to five to ten years. And where this has been done we see immediate economic benefits.”

The buffering impact of species diversity also generates long term insurance values that must be incorporated into future economic valuation and management decisions. “Although there are short-term economic costs associated with preservation of marine biodiversity, over the long term biodiversity conservation and economic development are complementary goals,” says coauthor Ed Barbier, an economist from the University of Wyoming.

The authors conclude that restoring marine biodiversity through an ecosystem based management approach - including integrated fisheries management, pollution control, maintenance of essential habitats and creation of marine reserves - is essential to avoid serious threats to global food security, coastal water quality and ecosystem stability.

“This isn't predicted to happen, this is happening now,” says co-author Nicola Beaumont an ecological economist with the Plymouth Marine Laboratory. “If biodiversity continues to decline, the marine environment will not be able to sustain our way of life, indeed it may not be able to sustain our lives at all.”

Jessica Brown | alfa
Further information:
http://www.seaweb.org

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Scientists on the road to discovering impact of urban road dust
18.01.2018 | University of Alberta

nachricht Gran Chaco: Biodiversity at High Risk
17.01.2018 | Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Optical Nanoscope Allows Imaging of Quantum Dots

Physicists have developed a technique based on optical microscopy that can be used to create images of atoms on the nanoscale. In particular, the new method allows the imaging of quantum dots in a semiconductor chip. Together with colleagues from the University of Bochum, scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute reported the findings in the journal Nature Photonics.

Microscopes allow us to see structures that are otherwise invisible to the human eye. However, conventional optical microscopes cannot be used to image...

Im Focus: Artificial agent designs quantum experiments

On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.

We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rutgers scientists discover 'Legos of life'

23.01.2018 | Life Sciences

Seabed mining could destroy ecosystems

23.01.2018 | Earth Sciences

Transportable laser

23.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>