Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Marine Heatwaves Destroy Ocean Ecosystems Like Wildfires Destroy Forests, Study Finds

Oceans
Marine Heatwaves Destroy Ocean Ecosystems Like Wildfires Destroy Forests, Study Finds
California's kelp forests have been particularly damaged by marine heat waves, a study has found. Tammy616 / Getty Images

The first study to look systemically at marine heat waves — periods when ocean temperatures spike for five days or more —found that they are happening more often, and are having a devastating impact on marine life, The Guardian reported.

The paper, published in Nature Climate Change Monday, found that the number of heat wave days per year had increased by more than 50 percent during the last 29 years (1987 to 2016) when compared to the years between 1925 and 1954. This is bad news for important ocean ecosystems from kelp forests to coral reefs.


"You have heatwave-induced wildfires that take out huge areas of forest, but this is happening underwater as well," lead author Dan Smale at the Marine Biological Association (MBA) in Plymouth, UK told The Guardian. "You see the kelp and seagrasses dying in front of you. Within weeks or months they are just gone, along hundreds of kilometres of coastline."

The researchers looked at 116 other papers on eight marine heat waves to assess their impact on ocean organisms. They found that Caribbean coral reefs, Australian sea grass and California's kelp forests had been particularly harmed. Regions in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans are particularly vulnerable because they combine high biodiversity with already warm temperature ranges, The Huffington Post reported.

This ultimately impacts humans who rely on the oceans for food and other resources.

"Ocean ecosystems currently face a number of threats, including overfishing, acidification and plastic pollution, but periods of extreme temperatures can cause rapid and profound ecological changes, leading to loss of habitat, local extinctions, reduced fisheries catches and altered food webs," Smale said in an MBA press release.

The paper authors said that since marine heat waves are only expected to get worse with climate change, it is important for conservationists to take them into account when working to preserve marine ecosystems.

The study comes days after another paper found that ocean warming had already caused fisheries to decline by an average of 4.1 percent. Yet another paper published Feb. 26 in Global Change Biology found that the recovery of whales in the Southern Ocean could be reversed by climate change, potentially leading to localized extinctions of some species by 2100.

"In the space of one week, scientific publications have underscored that unless we take evasive action, our future oceans will have fewer fish, fewer whales and frequent dramatic shifts in ecological structure will occur, with concerning implications for humans who depend on the ocean," Dr. Éva Plagányi at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), who co-wrote the whale study, told The Guardian.

In an ad released by Republican Voters Against Trump, former coronavirus task force member Olivia Troye roasted the president for his response. Republican Voters Against Trump / YouTube

Yet another former Trump administration staffer has come out with an endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden, this time in response to President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Climate Group

Every September for the past 11 years, non-profit the Climate Group has hosted Climate Week NYC, a chance for business, government, activist and community leaders to come together and discuss solutions to the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A field of sunflowers near the Mehrum coal-fired power station, wind turbines and high-voltage lines in the Peine district of Germany on Aug. 3, 2020. Julian Stratenschulte / picture alliance via Getty Images

By Elliot Douglas

The coronavirus pandemic has altered economic priorities for governments around the world. But as wildfires tear up the west coast of the United States and Europe reels after one of its hottest summers on record, tackling climate change remains at the forefront of economic policy.

Read More Show Less
Monarch butterflies in Mexico's Oyamel forest in Michoacan, Mexico after migrating from Canada. Luis Acosta / AFP / Getty Images

By D. André Green II

One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.

Read More Show Less
The 30th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony on Sept. 17 introduced ten new Ig Nobel Prize winners, each intended to make people "laugh then think." Improbable Research / YouTube

The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch