Human activities are cumulatively driving the health of the world's oceans down a rapid spiral, and only prompt and wholesale changes will slow or perhaps ultimately reverse the catastrophic problems they are facing.
Such is the prognosis of Jeremy Jackson, a professor of oceanography at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, in a bold new assessment of the oceans and their ecological health. Publishing his study in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Jackson believes that human impacts are laying the groundwork for mass extinctions in the oceans on par with vast ecological upheavals of the past.
He cites the synergistic effects of habitat destruction, overfishing, ocean warming, increased acidification and massive nutrient runoff as culprits in a grand transformation of once complex ocean ecosystems. Areas that had featured intricate marine food webs with large animals are being converted into simplistic ecosystems dominated by microbes, toxic algal blooms, jellyfish and disease.
Jackson, director of the Scripps Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, has tagged the ongoing transformation as "the rise of slime." The new paper, "Ecological extinction and evolution in the brave new ocean," is a result of Jackson's presentation last December at a biodiversity and extinction colloquium convened by the National Academy of Sciences.
"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."
In the assessment, Jackson reviews and synthesizes a range of research studies on marine ecosystem health, and in particular key studies conducted since a seminal
|Contact: Mario Aguilera|
University of California - San Diego