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Oregon Coast Scientists Warn Warming Ocean Temps May Create Chaos

Published 02/23/2017 at 4:49 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Oregon Coast Scientists Warn Warming Ocean Temps May Create Chaos

(Newport, Oregon) – 20 of the world's leading oceanographic researchers today released new evidence indicating how warming ocean temperatures around the globe will create some chaotic changes in that habitat by the year 2100. The deep ocean floor may see starvation and devastating ecological changes by the end of this century, and this will in turn have difficult implications for the rest of the planet.

Among those researchers who were part of the study were Andrew Thurber, an Oregon State University marine ecologist and co-author. This facility does much of its work through the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, on the central Oregon coast. The study's findings were published this week in the journal Elementa.

Thurber said warming ocean temperatures result in the increase of acidification and the spread of low-oxygen zones – something the Oregon coast has already dealt with in the last decade with the notorious “dead zones” that appeared periodically. But it's the biodiversity of all the ocean's deeper depths that are at stake, from 200 to 6,000 meters below the surface.

These ecosystems are only now being understood in how they affect the “functioning of the planet,” Thurber said. The threat begins with less food dropping to the bottom for the creatures that live there, and that at the very least will create enormous problems in the fishing industry. The numerous Earth models researchers used to make projections also pointed to difficulties with the oceans' ability to offset growing amounts of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere.

“Biodiversity in many of these areas is defined by the meager amount of food reaching the seafloor and over the next 80-plus years - in certain parts of the world - that amount of food will be cut in half,” Thurber said.

Some species will migrate, others will die, while still some others will thrive.

Projections saw the seafloor temperatures increasing by as much as four degrees Celsius in some areas.

“While four degrees doesn’t seem like much on land, that is a massive temperature change in these environments,” Thurber said. “It is the equivalent of having summer for the first time in thousands to millions of years.”

Thurber and the other scientists pointed out these regions cover about half the planet.

Pointing to the massive die-off of Dungeness crab off the Oregon coast ten years ago, Thurber noted that was the result of a lack of oxygen rising closer to the surface. The same process could be accelerated in higher regions of the ocean around the world by 2100, killing off food for species there and below.

Andrew Sweetman, a researcher at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh and lead author on the study, said this would result in a famine for much of the deep. This ecosystem is already in heavy competition for food sources that are scarce.

The first effect noticeable to humans would be the lack of fish. The North and South Pacific, North and South Atlantic, and North and South Indian oceans would be hit the hardest. Next could be levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The North Atlantic and its currents would be especially affected by warmer temperatures, acidification and lower oxygen, as this area soaks up carbon from the atmosphere and then the currents distribute it further around the world.

“We think of the deep ocean as incredibly stable and too vast to impact, but it doesn’t take much of a deviation to create a radically altered environment,” Thurber said. Where to stay on the Oregon coast - Where to eat - Maps and Virtual Tours. More on the Oregon coast below:









 

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