Oceans in even worse condition
A panel of scientists have concluded in a report that the current condition of the ocean is even worse than previously thought and that time is running out to do something about it. The 27 participants discussed the latest data and information relating to the stresses that the ocean is under and the effects these collective stresses are having.
The experts from around the world met between the 11th and 13th of June at Oxford Universities Margaret Thatcher Conference Centre to discuss possible actions and solutions to some of the problems facing the planets ocean. Organised by the International Programme for the State of the Ocean (IPSO) and in association with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) the event presented an ideal opportunity for different disciplines to some together and discuss common issues.
The workshop titled: ‘International Earth system expert workshop on ocean stresses and impacts’ had four key objectives:
• Review the latest information on ocean stresses and impacts and the levels of confidence around what is being expressed;
• Summarise the likely consequences of existing stresses on the ocean;
• Summarise the likely consequence of projected stresses from 2020 through to 2050;
• Determine the synergistic effects of multiple stresses on the ocean and what this may mean for the future.
The ocean is the largest ecosystem on earth and is fundamental for all life. In order to maintain the goods and services that the ocean provides it is integral that we re-assess the way that it is viewed. For too long the economic gains and consumer driven approach has been at the forefront of our attitude to the ocean and when you couple our thirst for resources with the current rates of population increase this approach is simply not sustainable.
The scientist’s conclusions were stark. Not only are we already experiencing serious declines in many species to the point of commercial extinction (e.g. northern blue fin tuna and cod) and an unparalleled rate of regional extinctions of habitat types (e.g. mangroves and seagrass meadows), but we are now confronted with marine species extinctions and the loss of entire marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs, within a single generation. Unless action is taken now, the consequences of our activities are at a high risk of causing, through the combined effects of climate change, overexploitation, pollution and habitat loss, the next globally significant extinction event in the ocean. It is notable that the occurrence of multiple high intensity stressors has been a pre‐requisite for all the five global extinction events of the past 600 million years (Barnosky et al., 2009).
The most frustrating aspect of the environmental concerns we face in the modern world is that we already have the technology and ability to solve many of them. The barriers are mainly societal in that short term profits are often put before long term sustainability. Changing this standpoint is fundamental to maintaining the world that we benefit from and enjoy every day.
It is clear that human interactions with the ocean must change quickly. A re-evaluation of the core values of human society and its relationship to the natural world and the resources on which we all rely must be sought. This meeting was a step in the right direction but there is much to do. Discussions on sustainable development will take place at the Earth Summit in Rio, 2012 and the state of the oceans must be a primary part of these talks.
For more details and the full report please click here.