Today’s New York Times includes an article that discusses a new study with bad news about the fate of Earth’s marine life.
The study finds that human activities may be causing historically unique damage to the oceans.
“Current ocean trends, coupled with terrestrial defaunation lessons, suggest that marine defaunation rates will rapidly intensify as human use of the oceans industrializes,” the abstract of the study, published in Science, said.
The NYT piece, written by the esteemed science writer Carl Zimmer, quoted a lead author of the Science paper, Douglas J. McCauley of the University of California at Santa Barbara, as saying that the researchers’ conclusions indicate that a mass marine extinction is possible.
The basic gist of the Science paper is that the same patterns of events that have led to the extinction of hundreds of terrestrial mega-fauna are also at work in the oceans. One of the biggest threats, as on land, is industrialization.
“There are factory farms in the sea and cattle-ranch-style feed lots for tuna,” Dr. Stephen R. Palumbi, a marine ecologist at Stanford University and a co-author of the paper, said. “Shrimp farms are eating up mangroves with an appetite akin to that of terrestrial farming, which consumed native prairies and forest. Stakes for seafloor mining claims are being pursued with gold-rush-like fervor, and 300-ton ocean mining machines and 750-foot fishing boats are now rolling off the assembly line to do this work.”
The paper’s authors also discuss the likely impacts of climate change.
A more detailed analysis of the Science paper will be posted here at a later date.
Image of Atlantic Dawn factory ship courtesy ShipSpotting.com; copyright as indicated above.