I’m sorry but I am going to ruin the rest of your day, week, month, and year. I don’t like packaging conservation messages in the negative but I fail to see any good spin for this. I was going to do a large write up about shifting baselines and Jeremy Jackson’s wonderfully written (as always) paper occurring recently in PNAS as part of special issue addressing biodiversity and biodiversity loss. However, Jeremy provides a table that brings home the message that far excels anything I could write here.
I did not so much cry as drop my jaw when I read Dr. Jackson’s article (which apparently is free for anyone to read. Great for OA). Coupled with this report on Dead Zones in the ocean (they are increasing in number at rapid rates), our effect on ocean life may be irreversible.
Dr. Jackson’s abstract is a model of understatement (my emphasis):
The great mass extinctions of the fossil record were a major creative
force that provided entirely new kinds of opportunities for the
subsequent explosive evolution and diversification of surviving
clades. Today, the synergistic effects of human impacts are laying the
groundwork for a comparably great Anthropocene mass extinction in
the oceans with unknown ecological and evolutionary consequences.
Synergistic effects of habitat destruction, overfishing, introduced
species, warming, acidification, toxins, and massive runoff of nutrients
are transforming once complex ecosystems like coral reefs and
kelp forests into monotonous level bottoms, transforming clear and
productive coastal seas into anoxic dead zones, and transforming
complex food webs topped by big animals into simplified, microbially
dominated ecosystems with boom and bust cycles of toxic dinoflagellate
blooms, jellyfish, and disease. Rates of change are increasingly
fast and nonlinear with sudden phase shifts to novel alternative
community states. We can only guess at the kinds of organisms that
will benefit from this mayhem that is radically altering the selective
seascape far beyond the consequences of fishing or warming alone.
The prospects are especially bleak for animals and plants compared
with metabolically flexible microbes and algae. Halting and ultimately
reversing these trends will require rapid and fundamental
changes in fisheries, agricultural practice, and the emissions of greenhouse
gases on a global scale.
We may very well be some those metabolically challenged animals. The oceans are dealing with our overfishing, pollution, and global climate change. While the ocreans will still be here, as well as life of some sort, the possible extinctions could include us without some very smart planning.
Jackson ends his article with focus on three areas where we can begin starting to correct the problems: Sustainable Fishing, Strong regulation of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and focus on climate change.
We have a lot more to do than just stop using fossil fuels. but that will be a great start.
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