Be it the flash floods in Texas or a heat wave in India that has killed over 2,000 people to date, the signs of global warming and the consequent extremes are telling on land. The sea has not been spared either – the acceleration of global sea level change from the end of the 20th century through the last two decades has been significantly swifter than scientists thought. And a closer look at the oceans reveal that by the end of the century, the polar regions may have some of the most abundant sea life on the planet. The tropics, which are currently the crown jewel of marine species richness, may be drained of much of its iconic marine life, opines a recent study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.
If warming is held at the 2-degree target, the changes that will occur throughout the global ocean “will be relatively benign for the ecosystem.”The tropical regions would see a net loss in biodiversity with average global warming of 2 degrees Celsius, while polar areas could see a 300% increase in biodiversity as species seek out more hospitable areas.
Continued warming of the Earth’s oceans over the next century could trigger disruptions to marine life on a scale not seen in the last 3 million years, the study states. The changes could include extinctions of some of the ocean’s keystone species as well as a widespread influx of “invasive” animals and plants that migrate to new territory because of changing environmental conditions, the report says.
When the temperature of the environment changes, animals and plants change in abundance locally or may move to new locations if the habitat is suitable. These movements ultimately affect the food web and ecology, and if they are rapid, the food web may become uncoupled.
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