In a year that has seen the disastrous effects of climate change unfold at frightening speed – from drought and famine to heat domes, wildfires and deadly flash floods – another potential disaster has arisen : oxygen levels in the world’s oceans and lakes that threaten marine life.
“As ocean and atmospheric scientists focus on climate, we believe ocean oxygen levels are the next big victim of global warming,” wrote researchers Julie Pullen and Nathalie Goodkin in an opinion piece published Tuesday in Scientific American.
Partly due to the effects of rising global temperatures, increasing portions of the oceans have lost “10 to 40% of their oxygen,” and this number is expected to continue to rise as a result of climate change. Rising water temperatures and oxygen depletion, which pollution and nutrient runoff also exacerbates, have been responsible for mass fish kills this year in states like Florida, California, California, United States of America. Oregon, Montana, Louisiana, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Washington, Idaho, Delaware and Minnesota. Although climate change is not the only cause of fish mortality, it is, according to the researchers, a contributing factor.
“As the amount of CO2 increases in the atmosphere, it not only warms the air by trapping radiation, but it heats the water. The interaction between the oceans and the atmosphere is complex and interwoven, but simply, the oceans have absorbed about 90% of the excess. heat created by climate change, ”the authors wrote.
When a heat dome blanketed much of the Pacific Northwest this summer, rising temperatures in streams and rivers resulted in massive deaths of salmon and trout. It is estimated that a billion marine animals along the Canadian coast were also killed as a result of this heat wave.
This grim reality has brought the urgency of global warming back to even conservative residents of his home state, Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore, told Yahoo News earlier this month at the Conference of Nations. United Nations on Climate Change in Glasgow, Scotland.
“Fifteen years ago in rural parts of the state people were like, ‘Oh, this is just an Ivy League invention,’” Merkley said. Today, those same voters, many of whom are fishermen, understand that “the trout streams were warmer and smaller, and it affects them.”
Climate change, Pullen and Goodkin wrote, upsets the delicate balance that helps provide abundant marine life.
“Water bodies can absorb CO2 and O2, but only within a temperature-dependent limit. The solubility of the gas decreases with warming temperatures; that is, warmer water retains less oxygen. This decrease in oxygen content, coupled with large-scale dieback of oxygen-generating phytoplankton resulting not only from climate change, but also plastic pollution and industrial runoff, compromises ecosystems, suffocating marine life and causing damage. new mortalities, ”they wrote.
With around 3 billion people worldwide depending on fishing for a living, maintaining oxygen levels in the world’s oceans and lakes is sure to be just one more challenge in the age of climate change.
“About 40 percent of the world depends on the ocean for its livelihood. If we don’t stop marine life from starving for oxygen, we are spreading a new travesty of ourselves,” the authors wrote.
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