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Nature

The world's dying oceans

by Lucy Brake 13 Sep 2011
The world's dying oceans
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In a new book released this week in the United States, Professor Peter Sale, who leads the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH), states his concern that the world's coral reef ecosystems are likely to disappear this century.

Professor Sale calls this "a new first for mankind - the 'extinction' of an entire ecosystem". After studying coral reefs for over 20 years he has first hand experience of the environmental changes that are happening so rapidly that the coral reefs simply cannot keep up.

He predicts that before the end of this century we will see the world without any coral reefs. Much of the human activity that has impacted coral reefs, such as pollution, unsustainable fishing and development of the coast, has localised effects but the global reach of climate change and acidification of the oceans is seeing changes on an unprecedented scale.

Called 'Our Dying Plant', this new book has some frightening forecasts for the future of the world. "People have been talking about current biodiversity loss as the Holocene mass extinction, meaning that the losses of species that are occurring now are in every way equivalent to the mass extinctions of the past," Professor Sale says, "I think there is every possibility that is what we are seeing".

Our Dying Planet also delves into the problem of overfishing and how if we continue on our current path that we will potentially significantly change ocean ecosystems for ever. Fisheries provide around 15 percent of the animal protein in the human diet and whilst aquaculture might be seen as one solution to collapsing fisheries, the aquaculture industry is itself responsible for some significant major environmental damage, particularly in many developing countries. Professor Sale believes that the loss of fisheries is not just a localised problem but that it will have "ramifications that will ripple across other parts of the world as we struggle to grow the food that fisheries formerly provided for us".

Essentially, the message in Our Dying Planet is a frightening prophecy of a global situation created by humans that will result in extensive and irreversible damage to the world's ecosystems.

If you are keen to get a copy of Our Dying Planet it is available online through the University of Columbia Press.

Top Image Credit: Great Barrier Reef © Qldian


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