Global warming may cause unprecedented disruptions to marine life

According to a report in the Washington Post on June 1 2015, continued ocean warming may cause disruptions to marine life on a scale not seen in the last 3 million years.

The extinction of some of the ocean’s keystone species and an influx of invasive animals and plants could be amongst the disruptions according to scientists from the University of Science and Technology in Lille France and their colleagues. The authors stated that the most dramatic changes could be averted if the world’s greenhouse gas emissions can be significantly reduced in the next few decades.


The research was conducted to predict future impacts of global warming on marine life by examining the affect of dramatic temperature changes in the past using fossil data. Using this data, extinction and migration patterns from the mid-Pliocene era 3 million years ago were examined. By extrapolating from those records, the researchers were able to predict that even under moderate warming conditions, extinctions and migrations may occur up to three times more frequently than at present. More significant warming may disrupt species in up to 50-70% of the world’s oceans.


Co-author of the study Richard Kirby stated that impacts will also be felt on land given the role that the ocean plays in supporting human populations. Changes in temperature causes local changes in abundance and some species may move to more suitable locations. The food web will therefore affected and if rapid enough, these changes may cause the destruction of the food web, according to Kirby.

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