Humans are causing massive, irreversible damage to our oceans and their wildlife, which lead to a major extinction event, according to a new study.
The findings, published in the journal Science, reveal that even though the human impacts on sea life have been less severe than on land animals, they’re beginning to take their toll. Additionally, as climate change continues to warm the oceans, many species will be forced to move north or south, which may expose them to new dangers.
Douglas J. McCauley, an ecologist at the University of California-Santa Barbara and an author of the study, told the New York Times that there could be dire impacts to sea life in a matter of years.
“We may be sitting on a precipice of a major extinction event,” he said.The scientists who performed the study all agree on one thing: It’s possible to prevent this calamity. It will take quick action to reign in climate change and humans’ dependence on sea life to keep a mass extinction event from happening, the study says.
It’s a monumental task, but one that remains possible because fewer species have been driven to extinction underwater than on land, the report says.
Human-caused impacts on the oceans have been revealed more and more during recent studies. Forty percent of the planet’s coral reefs have disappeared, due in part to global warming, according to the New York Times.
“Increasingly acidic waters due to buildup of atmospheric carbon dioxide is diminishing Great Barrier Reef corals, robbing sharks of their predatory senses, and hindering sea stars and other calcifiers in their ability to store calcium carbonate, which is crucial in forming their protective skeletons,” reports Nature World News.
The journal Science study suggests implementing more protective marine management programs and additional protected areas to ensure sea life is not harmed by future mining and energy development.
“The oceans remain relatively full of the raw faunal ingredients and still contain a sufficient degree of resilient capacity so that the goal of reversing the current crisis of marine defaunation remains within reach,” the study’s authors conclude. “The next several decades will be those in which we choose the fate of the future of marine wildlife.”