The state of the ocean (dire)

By Gareth Renowden 23/06/2011


Alex Rogers, Professor of Conservation Biology at the Department of Zoology at Oxford, and scientific director of the International Programme on the State of the Ocean describes the main problems affecting the global ocean – and discusses some of the things we could do to address them in this new video. The IPSO has just launched the summary of its forthcoming report on the state of the oceans1 — PDF here. The key findings make sobering reading:

  • Human actions have resulted in warming and acidification of the oceans and are now causing increased hypoxia.
  • The speeds of many negative changes to the ocean are near to or are tracking the worst case scenarios from IPCC and other predictions. Some are as predicted, but many are faster than anticipated, and many are still accelerating.
  • The magnitude of the cumulative impacts on the ocean is greater than previously understood.
  • Timelines for action are shrinking.
  • Resilience of the ocean to climate change impacts is severely compromised by other stressors from human activities, including fisheries, pollution and habitat destruction.
  • Ecosystem collapse is occurring as a result of both current and emerging stressors.
  • The extinction threat to marine species is rapidly increasing.

The bottom line is not pretty:

[…] we now face losing marine species and 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 effect of climate change, over exploitation, pollution and habitat loss, the next globally significant extinction event in the ocean.

The report recommends immediate action on reduction of CO2 emissions, calls for a long list of actions to restore and protect marine ecosystems, and the formation of a new Global Ocean Compliance Commission to establish rules and regulations for the protection of the “high seas” — the ocean beyond national jurisdictions.

This is a cri du coeur from the world’s ocean scientists. We ignore it at our peril…

[See also Climate Progress, and the NZ Herald. The IPSO site also has more videos from workshop participants, and a great ocean cycles graphic.]

  1. Rogers, A.D. & Laffoley, D.d’A. 2011. International Earth system expert workshop on ocean stresses and impacts. Summary report. IPSO Oxford, 18 pp