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New research uncovers troubling 'triple threat' facing the world's oceans: 'The impacts of this have already been seen and felt'

"Oceans aren't just a nice backdrop for your selfies in summer…"

"Oceans aren't just a nice backdrop for your selfies in summer..."

Photo Credit: iStock

The world's oceans are in hot water, and it's not just because of Earth's overheating.

What's happening?

The world's oceans are confronting a "triple threat" of extreme heating, oxygen loss, and acidification. As reported by the Guardian, this alarming trend, driven by human activities such as pollution and deforestation, has escalated dramatically in recent decades. 

Research published in AGU Advances reveals that about a fifth of the world's ocean surface is particularly vulnerable to these compound threats. In the top 300 meters of the ocean, these extreme conditions now last three times longer and are six times more intense than in the 1960s. 

Joel Wong, lead author of the study and researcher at ETH Zurich, emphasized that the climate crisis is pushing our oceans into a dangerous new state.

"The impacts of this have already been seen and felt. Intense extreme events like these are likely to happen again in the future and will disrupt marine ecosystems and fisheries around the world," Wong said, via the Guardian.

Why are ocean threats concerning?

The triple threat to our oceans is a significant concern because it disrupts the livelihoods of all living species. Wong referenced a "heat blob" that resulted in a die-off of marine life in the Pacific Ocean as a prime example, per the Guardian.

Rising ocean temperatures force marine life to migrate, if possible, to cooler areas. Additionally, the oceans' absorption of excess carbon dioxide makes seawater more acidic, which dissolves the shells of marine creatures and depletes oxygen levels. This combination of factors severely limits the habitable zones for marine life, pushing many species past their tipping points. 

Andrea Dutton, a climate scientist at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, compares the situation to the end of the Permian period 252 million years ago, when similar environmental changes led to Earth's largest known extinction event.

"Oceans aren't just a nice backdrop for your selfies in summer; we rely upon them for our lives. It's very important to recognize this," Dutton said.

What's being done about ocean threats?

Protecting our oceans from extreme heating, oxygen loss, and acidification is crucial, and there are several steps we can take to help.

One of the most effective ways is to reduce carbon pollution. By transitioning to renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, we can significantly cut down on the harmful emissions that contribute to rising ocean temperatures. Additionally, lowering our consumption of red meat and opting for more sustainable food choices can also help reduce our carbon footprint.

Another important action is to support sustainability practices and use our buying power to encourage corporations to adopt environmentally friendly policies. For instance, choosing products with less plastic packaging and supporting companies that are committed to reducing their environmental impact can make a big difference.

On a broader scale, advocating for policies that protect marine life and reduce pollution, such as banning deep sea mining, can also help preserve the health of our oceans. By making these changes in our daily lives and supporting larger initiatives, we can contribute to the protection and restoration of our vital ocean ecosystems.

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