Many environmental and sustainability advocates are deeply concerned about the current state of the world’s oceans; many are even looking at present trends to anticipate oceanic changes in the near future. But when it comes to the long-term future of our blue planet’s marine environments, few are looking further into the future than the international team of scientists and policymakers from the Nippon Foundation – University of British Columbia ((NF-UBC) Nereus program.
Synthesizing past, present and current data for the three major factors impacting our oceans — climate change, human activity (e.g. over-fishing and land run-off), and food web dynamics — the Nereus model reveals undersea life from 1960 through 2060…and beyond — to the dawning of the 22 century. The model bases its predictions on current conditions and policies (such as fishing quotas, or their lack). One of the most striking predictions is a strong decline in the biomass of large fishes, even while the biomass of some small fish species may be increasing (and certainly many species of jelly fish, or hydra, are continuing to increase).
“Our preliminary results show a global fish biomass of 2 billion tonnes, confirming earlier estimates taken from regional modeling,” stated fisheries professor Villy Christensen (UBC), speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) this week in Vancouver, B. C.
The innovative program — Nereus – Predicting the the Future Ocean — is a joint initiative between the Nippon Foundation and the University of British Columbia. To generate its 3D scenarios and visualizations (see images or follow links), the Nereus model analyzes data from from four linked, global models: Earth System, Ocean Life, Biodiversity Envelope, and Fisheries Management and Governance.
The Nereus model provides both a global view of the health of our oceans, but also a “predictive view” of future impacts based upon our past and current marine resource choices.
The powerful model includes a special tool, fittingly called ‘The Oracle’ which invites members of the public to ask questions (such as ‘how will fishing fishing technique or practices impact future fish stocks?’) with the resulting answers revealing the science behind these choices. In the case of the example question, The Oracle generates two scenarios: one showing dramatic declines (as unsustainable fishing efforts increase) and another showing gradual recovery of some species (as said efforts are reduced).
Watch a 3D visualization of present and future oceans, courtesy of the Nereus Model and ‘The Oracle’:
Follow link to see more Nereus model scenarios (videos)
Photos: (Nereus and Oracle images) NF-UBS Public Affairs