The latest news concerning our oceans is not what you would label “good news.” Immediate and sweeping changes are necessary to slow or reverse the impact that human activity is having on our oceans. If we do not, then catastrophic problems will be unavoidable. Issues such as overfishing, pollution and climate change are just a few that are of concern.
This is the view of one Jeremy Jackson, a professor of oceanography at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, in a new study published in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). A major part of Jackson’s study, is the view that humans are laying the groundwork for mass extinctions within our oceans not seen since the ecological upheavals of our murky past.
Jackson has labeled this human-impacted transformation as “the rise of slime,” and he points to combined impact of habitat destruction, overfishing, ocean warming, increased acidification and massive nutrient runoff as the culprits for his rise of slime.
Areas of our oceans that were once a thriving metropolis of oceanic biodiversity, with big and small animals’ alike living in a sort of “end times” environment, are now being turned in to areas only habitable by jellyfish, microbes, disease and toxic algal blooms.
A presentation last December at a biodiversity and extinction colloquium convened by the National Academy of Sciences goes hand in hand with Jackson’s new paper, “Ecological extinction and evolution in the brave new ocean.” “The purpose of the talk and the paper is to make clear just how dire the situation is and how rapidly things are getting worse,” said Jackson. “It’s a lot like the issue of climate change that we had ignored for so long. If anything, the situation in the oceans could be worse because we are so close to the precipice in many ways.”
The continued overfishing is just one issue that strikes at the heart of the biodiversity of our oceans. The loss of fish and sharks near our continental shelves, runoff into our estuaries and coastal seas, and more, build upon each other to paint a dire picture for our oceans.
“The challenges of bringing these threats under control are enormously complex and will require fundamental changes in fisheries, agricultural practices and the ways we obtain energy for everything we do,” he writes. “So it’s not a happy picture and the only way to deal with it is in segments; the only way to keep one’s sanity and try to achieve real success is to carve out sectors of the problem that can be addressed in effective terms and get on it as quickly as possible.”