IUCN report reveals impact of ocean warming on marine resources

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National Broadcasting Corporation of Papua New Guinea, Honolulu, Hawai'i

The International Union for Conservation and Nature (IUCN) in a press conference today, revealed that ocean warming is currently affecting major marine resources.

Compiled by 80 scientists from 12 countries, it highlights detectable scientific evidence of impacts on marine life, from microorganisms to mammals, which are likely to increase significantly even under a low emissions scenario.

Until very recently, the debate on climate change has focused on specific themes such as land surface temperatures among others, but IUCN Director General Inger Andersen says that ocean warming is "one of this generation’s greatest hidden challenges." According to her, we are completely unprepared.

“The only way to preserve the rich diversity of marine life, and to safeguard the protection and resources the ocean provides us with," says Inger, "is to cut greenhouse gas emissions rapidly and substantially.”

The report states that ocean warming is already affecting ecosystems from polar to tropical regions. It is driving entire groups of species such as plankton, jellyfish, turtles and seabirds up to 10 degrees of latitude towards the poles, causing the loss of breeding grounds for turtles and seabirds, and affecting the breeding success of marine mammals.

Damaging fish habitats and causing fish species to move to cooler waters, affecting fish stocks in some areas and are expected to lead to reduced catches in tropical regions.

The report says that most of the heat from human-induced warming since the 1970s – a staggering 93% – has been absorbed by the ocean, which acts as a buffer against climate change, but this comes at a price.

Dan Laffoley, Vice Chair of the World Commission on Protected Areas at IUCN, and one of the lead authors says he was astounded by the scale and extent of ocean warming effects on entire ecosystems.

Among the findings, it highlights evidence that ocean warming is causing increased disease in plant and animal populations, and impacting human health.

It has increased rainfall in mid-latitudes and monsoon areas, and less rain in various sub-tropical regions.

The report’s recommendations include recognizing the severity of ocean warming impacts on ocean ecosystems and the benefits they provide to humans, expanding marine protected areas, introduce legal protection for the high seas, and better evaluate the social and economic risks associated with warming oceans.