One day, in the not-so-distant future, the movie Finding Nemo may be seen as an incredibly inaccurate portrayal of life under the sea. And it’s not because of the talking fish.
Aside from destroying reef habitats, new research has found that climate change may also have devastating consequences for the state of marine food webs, with possible collapse on the horizon.
With fish providing people worldwide up to 20% of their animal protein, the breakdown of fish food webs would have momentous consequences for food security.
The beautiful, colourful, and full of life oceans where we imagine Nemo and his friends to live, may soon be a thing of the past.
Ups and Downs
Ocean acidification, caused by the uptake of CO2 into the water, has been suggested by many as something that could result in the increased growth of plants in the ocean.
So, if CO2 in the ocean is good, what’s wrong with climate change? Why shouldn’t we all be running out to turn on all our lights and start getting more CO2 out to the ocean?
Perhaps if we could have ocean acidification without ocean warming, it would be okay. But as more CO2 goes into the atmosphere, the Earth starts heating up, and so does the ocean.
And as it turns out, a warmer ocean is very, very, not okay.
New research conducted by ecologists from the University of Adelaide, looked at the combined effects of a warmer ocean and increased CO2 concentrations, and found that the negatives greatly outweighed the positives.
The study simulated the effects of climate change on marine food webs, by manipulating the concentrations of CO2 and the temperature of the water in large aquaria.
They found that although more CO2 in the water boosted plant growth, when combined with warmer water, the fish were too stressed to take advantage of this increased amount of food.
Eventually, the fish exposed to warmer temperatures died, leaving a gap in the food chain and causing breakdown of the ecosystem.
What Can Be Done?
The Australian Government is currently planning to help fund the construction of the biggest coal mine of its type in the southern hemisphere.
The Carmichael Coal Mine would single-handedly exceed the carbon emissions from fuel combustion of many countries around the world, and contribute to climate change and the continued destruction of ocean ecosystems.
If you’d like to show your support for protecting the ocean and stopping the construction of the mine, here is where you can sign a petition. If you’re interested in getting involved further with this project, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition runs many events throughout the year and is always looking for volunteers to join the movement.