Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

We Can Restore Marine Health, Study Says

Oceans
Reef scene with crinoid and fish in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Reinhard Dirscherl / ullstein bild / Getty Images

By Elizabeth Claire Alberts

The future for the world's oceans often looks grim. Fisheries are set to collapse by 2048, according to one study, and 8 million tons of plastic pollute the ocean every year, causing considerable damage to delicate marine ecosystems. Yet a new study in Nature offers an alternative, and more optimistic view on the ocean's future: it asserts that the entire marine environment could be substantially rebuilt by 2050, if humanity is able to step up to the challenge.


The key to success, the authors say, is lessening the impact and stresses on the ocean, while restoring damaged ecosystems, and trying to reduce carbon emissions that drive climate change.

This study examines nine parts of the ocean in detail — salt marshes, mangroves, seagrasses, coral reefs, kelp, oyster reefs, fisheries, megafauna, and the deep ocean — and suggests critical and realistic steps that can be taken to restore and protect these areas.

The authors refer to several models of success for reversing the decline of marine life. For instance, the global wildlife trade treaty CITES and and a 1982 moratorium on commercial whaling have reduced hunting of endangered species and helped protect the critical habitats these species depend upon. Depleted fish populations have also rebounded in response to proper management techniques.

While the study fosters an optimistic view of future ocean health, it concedes that some parts of the ocean will be more difficult to restore. For instance, coral reef systems have the added pressure of bleaching events due to climate change, and the process of restoring damaged reefs is slow and expensive. However, the study notes that there are efforts to discover coral that's resistant to temperature change and bleaching events.

Restoring the oceans would be no small feat, and would require stable governmental policies, a large financial investment, and the continued evolution of scientific advances and technologies, the authors say. Action would also need to take place within a very short space of time.

But the biggest obstacle to restoring the oceans is mitigating the effects of climate change, according to Callum Roberts, a co-author of the study and professor at the University of York in the U.K.

"Climate change is the big problem that is looming over everything because it makes recovering nature harder, and as the climate changes, it's going to become more difficult," Roberts told Mongabay. "That's why we have to act very quickly now to start restoring nature, because that's going to help human societies to adapt over time, as well as to allow nature a better chance to survive and thrive through a changing climate."

Despite the challenges, Roberts says he believes the oceans are incredibly resilient. This is evident in marine protected areas (MPAs), where fishing and other human activities are prohibited, Roberts says.

"I've seen in localized areas how recovery can take place, and how it can take place quite quickly and spectacularly," he said. "When you protect areas, you can predict very easily the way that the response will go. You start off with things becoming more abundant, living longer, producing more offspring. Then you see the reconstruction of habitat structures on the seabed or kelp forests, then the return of some of the rarer things."

This year was supposed to be the "Ocean Super Year," with several ocean-related meetings and negotiations meant to take place, including the 4th High Seas Treaty negotiation, the U.N. Ocean Conference, Monaco Blue Initiative, and the International Maritime Organization, which included a session with the Marine Environment Protection Committee. However, most have been cancelled or postponed due to COVID-19.

The pandemic itself has also prompted some reprieve for the oceans from human pressure, although Roberts said it's too early to identify the long-term effects.

"A lot of fishing boats are tied up right now, and that's definitely going to give a short-term benefit to marine life," he said. "Longer term, I don't know. But I think there will be a lot of thinking done after this crisis about how we need to do things better."

Reposted with permission from Mongabay.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Petri Oeschger / Moment / Getty Images

By Kris Gunnars, BSc

Sleep is one of the pillars of optimal health.

Read More Show Less

Junjira Konsang / Pixabay

By Matt Casale

For many Americans across the country, staying home to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) means adapting to long-term telework for the first time. We're doing a lot more video conferencing and working out all the kinks that come along with it.

Read More Show Less
Looking south from New York City's Central Park. Ajay Suresh / Wikipedia / CC BY 4.0

By Richard leBrasseur

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered humans' relationship with natural landscapes in ways that may be long-lasting. One of its most direct effects on people's daily lives is reduced access to public parks.

Read More Show Less
PeopleImages / E+ / Getty Images

By Ryan Raman, MS, RD

Minerals are key nutrients that your body requires to function. They affect various aspects of bodily function, such as growth, bone health, muscle contractions, fluid balance, and many other processes.

Read More Show Less
A young monk seal underwater in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. NOAA / PIFSC / HMSRP

By Tara Lohan

The Sargasso Sea, an area of the Atlantic Ocean between the Caribbean and Bermuda, has bedeviled sailors for centuries. Its namesake — sargassum, a type of free-floating seaweed — and notoriously calm winds have "trapped" countless mariners, including the crew of Christopher Columbus's Santa Maria.

Read More Show Less
Charlie Rogers / Moment / Getty Images

As the COVID-19 virus was spreading around the world, deforestation in the world's rainforests rose at an alarming rate, the German arm of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said in a study published on Thursday.

Read More Show Less

Trending

M_a_y_a / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Tonya Russell

A few years ago, my fiance and I got into an argument on our way to spend Christmas with my family.

As we drove through unfamiliar territory, we began to notice a lot of people who appeared to be without a home. This started to break up the tension as we turned our thoughts to this bigger issue.

Read More Show Less