Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists reveal first-ever global map of total human effects on oceans

15.02.2008
More than 40% of the world’s oceans are heavily affected by human activities, and few if any areas remain untouched, according to the first global-scale study of human influence on marine ecosystems. By overlaying maps of 17 different activities such as fishing, climate change, and pollution, the researchers have produced a composite map of the toll that humans have exacted on the seas.

The work, published in the Feb. 15 issue of Science and presented at a press conference Thursday February 14 at 1 pm EST at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting in Boston, MA, was conducted at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) at UC Santa Barbara and involved 19 scientists from a broad range of universities, NGOs, and government agencies.

The study synthesized global data on human impacts to marine ecosystems such as coral reefs, seagrass beds, continental shelves, and the deep ocean. Past studies have focused largely on single activities or single ecosystems in isolation, and rarely at the global scale. In this study the scientists were able to look at the summed influence of human activities across the entire ocean.

“This project allows us to finally start to see the big picture of how humans are affecting the oceans.” said lead author Ben Halpern, Assistant Research Scientist at NCEAS. “Our results show that when these and other individual impacts are summed up, the big picture looks much worse than I imagine most people expected. It was certainly a surprise to me.”

"This research is a critically needed synthesis of the impact of human activity on ocean ecosystems," said David Garrison, biological oceanography program director at NSF. "The effort is likely to be a model for assessing these impacts at local and regional scales."

“Clearly we can no longer just focus on fishing or coastal wetland loss or pollution as if they are separate effects,” said Andrew Rosenberg, a Professor of Natural Resources at the University of New Hampshire who was not involved with the study. “These human impacts overlap in space and time, and in far too many cases the magnitude is frighteningly high. The message for policymakers seems clear to me: conservation action that cuts across the whole set of human impacts is needed now in many places around the globe.”

The study reports that the most heavily affected waters in the world include large areas of the North Sea, the South and East China Seas, the Caribbean Sea, the east coast of North America, the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Bering Sea, and several regions in the western Pacific. The least affected areas are largely near the poles.

“Unfortunately, as polar ice sheets disappear with warming global climate and human activities spread into these areas, there is a great risk of rapid degradation of these relatively pristine ecosystems,” said Carrie Kappel, a principal investigator on the project and a post-doctoral researcher at NCEAS.

Importantly, human influence on the ocean varies dramatically across various ecosystems. The most heavily affected areas include coral reefs, seagrass beds, mangroves, rocky reefs and shelves, and seamounts. The least impacted ecosystems are soft-bottom areas and open-ocean surface waters.

“There is definitely room for hope,” added Halpern. “With targeted efforts to protect the chunks of the ocean that remain relatively pristine, we have a good chance of preserving these areas in good condition.”

The research involved a four-step process. First, the scientists developed techniques to quantify and compare how different human activities affect each marine ecosystem. For example, fertilizer runoff has been shown to have a large effect on coral reefs but a much smaller one on kelp forests. Second, the researchers gathered and processed global data on the distributions of marine ecosystems and human influences. Third, the researchers combined data from the first and second steps to determine “human impact scores” for each location in the world. Finally, using global estimates of the condition of marine ecosystems from previous studies, the researchers were able to ground-truth their impact scores.

Despite all this effort, the authors acknowledge that their maps are yet incomplete, because many human activities are poorly studied or lack good data. “Our hope is that as more data become available, the maps will be refined and updated,” said Fio Micheli, a principal investigator on the project and Assistant Professor at Stanford University. “But this will almost certainly create a more dire picture.”

This study provides critical information for evaluating where certain activities can continue with little effect on the oceans, and where other activities might need to be stopped or moved to less sensitive areas. As management and conservation of the oceans turns toward marine protected areas (MPAs), ecosystem-based management (EBM) and ocean zoning to manage human influence, such information will prove invaluable to managers and policymakers.

“Conservation and management groups have to decide where, when, and what to spend their resources on,” said Kimberly Selkoe, a principal investigator on the project and a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Hawaii. “Whether one is interested in protecting ocean wilderness, assessing which human activities have the greatest impact, or prioritizing which ecosystem types need management intervention, our results provide a strong framework for doing so.”

“My hope is that our results serve as a wake-up call to better manage and protect our oceans rather than a reason to give up,” Halpern said. “Humans will always use the oceans for recreation, extraction of resources, and for commercial activity such as shipping. This is a good thing. Our goal, and really our necessity, is to do this in a sustainable way so that our oceans remain in a healthy state and continue to provide us the resources we need and want.”

Gail Gallessich | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nceas.ucsb.edu/GlobalMarine

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Treatment of saline wastewater during algae utilization
14.05.2019 | Jacobs University Bremen gGmbH

nachricht Plastic gets a do-over: Breakthrough discovery recycles plastic from the inside out
07.05.2019 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

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: New studies increase confidence in NASA's measure of Earth's temperature

A new assessment of NASA's record of global temperatures revealed that the agency's estimate of Earth's long-term temperature rise in recent decades is accurate to within less than a tenth of a degree Fahrenheit, providing confidence that past and future research is correctly capturing rising surface temperatures.

The most complete assessment ever of statistical uncertainty within the GISS Surface Temperature Analysis (GISTEMP) data product shows that the annual values...

Im Focus: The geometry of an electron determined for the first time

Physicists at the University of Basel are able to show for the first time how a single electron looks in an artificial atom. A newly developed method enables them to show the probability of an electron being present in a space. This allows improved control of electron spins, which could serve as the smallest information unit in a future quantum computer. The experiments were published in Physical Review Letters and the related theory in Physical Review B.

The spin of an electron is a promising candidate for use as the smallest information unit (qubit) of a quantum computer. Controlling and switching this spin or...

Im Focus: Self-repairing batteries

UTokyo engineers develop a way to create high-capacity long-life batteries

Engineers at the University of Tokyo continually pioneer new ways to improve battery technology. Professor Atsuo Yamada and his team recently developed a...

Im Focus: Quantum Cloud Computing with Self-Check

With a quantum coprocessor in the cloud, physicists from Innsbruck, Austria, open the door to the simulation of previously unsolvable problems in chemistry, materials research or high-energy physics. The research groups led by Rainer Blatt and Peter Zoller report in the journal Nature how they simulated particle physics phenomena on 20 quantum bits and how the quantum simulator self-verified the result for the first time.

Many scientists are currently working on investigating how quantum advantage can be exploited on hardware already available today. Three years ago, physicists...

Im Focus: Accelerating quantum technologies with materials processing at the atomic scale

'Quantum technologies' utilise the unique phenomena of quantum superposition and entanglement to encode and process information, with potentially profound benefits to a wide range of information technologies from communications to sensing and computing.

However a major challenge in developing these technologies is that the quantum phenomena are very fragile, and only a handful of physical systems have been...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

On Mars, sands shift to a different drum

24.05.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Piedmont Atlanta first in Georgia to offer new minimally invasive treatment for emphysema

24.05.2019 | Medical Engineering

Chemical juggling with three particles

24.05.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>