Experts Predict How Emerging Issues Could Impact Ocean Biodiversity in 10 Years

Some people that are conversant with marine and coastal systems have come together to identify the top 15 issues that could have a considerable bearing on marine and ocean biodiversity in the next 5-10 years.



The experts carried out a global horizon scan that was focused on identifying emerging issues that are currently not getting adequate attention. Yet, these matters have the potential of producing huge impacts on coastal ecosystems in the coming decade.

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“Marine and coastal ecosystems face a wide range of emerging issues that are poorly recognized or understood, each having the potential to impact,” said Dr. James Herbert-Read, who is one of the first authors of this report.

Overfishing of ocean species, startling effects of wildfires on coastal ecosystems, deep-sea lithium extraction, and new biodegradable materials’ effects on the marine environment were some of the identified issues.

This paper aims to raise awareness about these major emerging issues. The experts hope that this would encourage investment towards getting a better understanding of the issues and drive necessary policy changes to avert big biodiversity problems. The horizon scanning process involved 30 pundits from 11 countries located in the global north and south. These people were from different backgrounds – among them were scientists and policymakers.

The international team published its paper in Nature Ecology and Evolution.

Depletion of ocean resources

A major theme of this paper is the undue exploitation of ocean resources. Several of the emerging issues that were pinpointed relate to this.

Read Also: New Fish Flow Study Provides Insights for Sustainable Fisheries Management

Overfishing has been a big problem for some time. But the paper’s authors directed their attention more toward what might happen in the coming years. They fear fishing activities may soon extend to the deeper mesopelagic zone, with a depth of up to 1,000 meters.

Fish living in the mesopelagic zone are not suitable for consumption by humans. However, they can be used as food on fish farms.

“There are areas where we believe immediate changes could prevent huge problems arising over the next decade, such as overfishing in the ocean’s mesopelagic zone,” said Dr. Ann Thornton, joint first author. “Curbing this would not only stop overexploitation of these fish stocks, but reduce the disruption of carbon cycling in the ocean – because these species are an ocean pump that removes carbon from our atmosphere.”

The experts also noted that increasing lithium demand – for use in electric vehicle batteries – also puts marine environments in danger. This demand puts deep-sea brine pools at risk because of the high amounts of lithium-containing salts in them. These locations play host to a highly diverse marine life as well.

Read Also: NOAA Introduces DisMAP a New Tool for Mapping Marine Species Distribution

Other issues

The potentially harmful effect of new biodegradable materials on the world’s ocean was also noted in the paper. The authors stated that a number of these materials pose a greater toxicity threat to marine species, compared to regular plastics.

Governments have been trying to encourage greater use of biodegradable materials more than conventional plastics. Herbert-Read pointed out that the potential impacts of these materials on ocean life are not yet known.

Another issue that was identified by the authors was a decline in fish nutritional content due to climate change. For example, increasing heat levels are reducing the production of essential fatty acids, which are typically produced by cold-water species.

These changes cannot only adversely impact marine life but also human health, the experts noted.

There were also positives in the paper, however. The authors disclosed that the development of improved underwater tracking systems, soft robotics, and other new technologies can increase the knowledge of marine life, including their distribution. They cautioned, however, that the effects these technologies can have on biodiversity should first be understood before full-scale deployment.

Read Also: Sulfuric Acid Rain May Be the Cause of the Extinction of Land Species 252 Million Years Ago

Herbert-Read expressed hope that the early identification of the top emerging issues and their potential effects would drive needed actions. This will guide scientists, conservationists, and policymakers, among others, in tackling the threats to marine and coastal systems, he said.


A global horizon scan of issues impacting marine and coastal biodiversity conservation



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