Over the recent decade, total human impacts to the world’s oceans have, on average, nearly doubled and could double again in the next decade without adequate action, researchers say.
A new study in Scientific Reports assesses for the first time where the combined impacts that humans are having on oceans—including things like nutrient pollution and overfishing—are changing and how quickly.
In nearly 60% of the ocean, the cumulative impacts are increasing significantly and, in many places, at a pace that appears to be accelerating.
“That creates even more urgency to solve these problems,” says lead author Ben Halpern, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management and director of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS).
The multifactor problem in oceans
Climate change is a key factor driving the increase across the world, as seas warm, acidify, and rise. On top of that, commercial fishing, runoff from land-based pollution, and shipping are intensifying progressively each year in many areas of the ocean.
“It’s a multifactor problem that we need to solve. We can’t just fix one thing if we want to slow and eventually stop the rate of increase in cumulative impacts,” Halpern says.
The study also projected the impacts one decade into the future, based on the rate of change in the recent past, finding that impacts could double again if the pace of change continues unchecked.
The assessment provides a holistic perspective of where and how much human activities shape ocean change—for better or worse—which is essential to policy and planning.
“If you don’t pay attention to the big picture, you miss the actual story,” Halpern says. “The bigger picture is critical if you want to make smart management decisions—where are you going to get your biggest bang for your buck.”
Regions of particular concern include Australia, Western Africa, the Eastern Caribbean islands, and the Middle East, among others. Coastal habitats such as mangroves, coral reefs, and seagrasses are among the hardest-hit ecosystems.
Not all bad news
There is an upside to the story, however. The authors found some “success stories” around every continent, areas where impacts have declined, such as the seas of South Korea, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Denmark, all of which have seen significant decreases in commercial fishing and pollution.
The declines suggest that policies and other actions to improve ocean conditions are making a difference—although, the analysis does not attribute specific actions to those declines.
“We can improve things. The solutions are known and within our grasp. We just need the social and political will to take action,” Halpern says.
To assess the pace of change, the authors used two previous and similar assessments the same team members and others conducted in 2008 and 2013, which provided first glimpses into the full, cumulative extent of humanity’s impacts on oceans.
“Previously, we had a good measure of the magnitude of human impacts, but not a clear picture of how they are changing,” says coauthor Melanie Frazier, a data scientist at NCEAS.
She says how dramatically ocean temperatures have increased in a relatively short period of time, was a surprise.
“You don’t need fancy statistics to see how rapidly ocean temperature is changing and understand the magnitude of the problem. I think this study, along with many others, highlights the importance of a concerted global effort to control climate change.”
Source: UC Santa Barbara
The Human Swarm: How Our Societies Arise, Thrive, and Fall
by Mark W. Moffett
If a chimpanzee ventures into the territory of a different group, it will almost certainly be killed. But a New Yorker can fly to Los Angeles--or Borneo--with very little fear. Psychologists have done little to explain this: for years, they have held that our biology puts a hard upper limit--about 150 people--on the size of our social groups. But human societies are in fact vastly larger. How do we manage--by and large--to get along with each other? In this paradigm-shattering book, biologist Mark W. Moffett draws on findings in psychology, sociology and anthropology to explain the social adaptations that bind societies. He explores how the tension between identity and anonymity defines how societies develop, function, and fail. Surpassing Guns, Germs, and Steel and Sapiens, The Human Swarm reveals how mankind created sprawling civilizations of unrivaled complexity--and what it will take to sustain them. Available On Amazon
Environment: The Science Behind the Stories
by Jay H. Withgott, Matthew Laposata
Environment: The Science behind the Stories is a best seller for the introductory environmental science course known for its student-friendly narrative style, its integration of real stories and case studies, and its presentation of the latest science and research. The 6th Edition features new opportunities to help students see connections between integrated case studies and the science in each chapter, and provides them with opportunities to apply the scientific process to environmental concerns. Available On Amazon
Feasible Planet: A guide to more sustainable living
by Ken Kroes
Are you concerned about the state of our planet and hope that governments and corporations will find a sustainable way for us to live? If you do not think about it too hard, that may work, but will it? Left on their own, with drivers of popularity and profits, I am not too convinced that it will. The missing part of this equation is you and me. Individuals who believe that corporations and governments can do better. Individuals who believe that through action, we can buy a bit more time to develop and implement solutions to our critical issues. Available On Amazon
From The Publisher:
Purchases on Amazon go to defray the cost of bringing you InnerSelf.com, MightyNatural.com, and ClimateImpactNews.com at no cost and without advertisers that track your browsing habits. Even if you click on a link but don't buy these selected products, anything else you buy in that same visit on Amazon pays us a small commission. There is no additional cost to you, so please contribute to the effort. You can also use this link to use to Amazon at any time so you can help support our efforts.