Global warming is an ever-increasingly pervasive and urgent issue that the public needs to be aware of and take action on. One of the most important and far-reaching effects of climate change is its impact on sea life. From numerous species of aquatic animals to an entire ecosystem, global warming is a significant and pervasive threat to the world’s oceans.
The rise in ocean temperatures that is naturally occurring due to unchecked greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere is impacting marine life on multiple levels. As temperatures increase, ocean waters absorb more heat through a process called ‘thermal expansion’, leading to ocean levels rising. According to National Geographic, if this process continues unabated, sea levels could rise in the next century by as much as four feet. This increased depth would cause salt marshes and other habitats to become submerged, depriving the many species that make their homes in those areas of the oxygen they need to survive. Furthermore, the changing ocean levels means that when these areas are inundated, they are unable to facilitate the species which have previously called them home.
Increased temperatures also have the potential to be lethal for some species. Marine mammals such as dolphins and whales thrive in colder waters and when areas where they are found are tropically warmed, they are less likely to survive. Other species of seasonal visitors, such as the Monarch butterfly and North Atlantic Right whale, may no longer be able to make their annual migrations if ocean temperatures become too severe in one direction or another.
Acidification is another major effect of global warming which impairs the marine environment. Increased carbon dioxide in the seas leads to an increasing pH reacts with water, forming Carbonic acid. This process, known as ‘ocean acidification’ has devastating effects on ocean life as it impedes the ability of many creatures to properly form their shells or exoskeletons. In extreme cases, this can lead to entire populations of certain aquatic species experiencing mass die-offs due to the inability to build or replace shells.
The effects of global warming on sea life is not just limited to aquatic creatures, but extended to the entire ecosystem. While increased temperatures can be potentially advantageous to some species, the overall and ever-worsening effects to sealife is becoming more evident. These effects extend from drastic shifts in population levels, to wide-spread deaths from acidification, and could ultimately lead to an entirely different marine biome than the one we currently know.
In order to minimize the potential for global warming to greatly diminish marine biodiversity, efforts are being made to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and shift toward sustainable energy solutions. In addition to this, an increasing number of governmental and non-governmental organisations are collaborating to establish methods for conserving the world’s oceans, from establishing protected marine habitats to implementing industry regulations. While these solutions may come in small steps, even the smallest amount of effort has the potential to create a change.
In sum, global warming has fundamental implications for the world’s oceans, and its effects are already being witnessed. It is up to individuals, governments, and organisations around the world to work towards combating climate change and its implications, especially with regards to our ocean life.