Pressures on the marine environment and the changing climate of ocean biogeochemistry

The oceans are under pressure from human activities. Following 250 years of industrial activity, effects are being seen at the cellular through to regional and global scales. The change in atmospheric CO2 from 280 ppm in pre-industrial times to 392 ppm in 2011 has contributed to the warming of the upper 700 m of the ocean by approximately 0.1°C between 1961 and 2003, to changes in sea water chemistry, which include a pH decrease of approximately 0.1, and to significant decreases in the sea water oxygen content. In parallel with these changes, the human population has been introducing an ever-increasing level of nutrients into coastal waters, which leads to eutrophication, and by 2008 had resulted in 245 000 km2 of severely oxygen-depleted waters throughout the world. These changes are set to continue for the foreseeable future, with atmospheric CO2 predicted to reach 430 ppm by 2030 and 750 ppm by 2100. The cycling of biogeochemical elements has proved sensitive to each of these effects, and it is proposed that synergy between stressors may compound this further. The challenge, within the next few decades, for the marine science community, is to elucidate the scope and extent that biological processes can adapt or acclimatize to a changing chemical and physical marine environment.

Rees A. P., 2012. Pressures on the marine environment and the changing climate of ocean biogeochemistry. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A 370 (1980): 5613-5635. Article.

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