The writing is on the wall- Climate change is wreaking havoc on the planet’s ecology. Studies have revealed that marine life can take a millennium to roll back climate change related upheavals.
The world is increasingly getting tired of hearing the same story: Antarctica Ice Shelves are crumbling away at an alarming rate and climate change is to blame.
The Gulf Stream, a vital heat transport system is getting slower than ever before and researchers are warning that the ramification of this phenomenon will be drastic and its effects widespread.
Scientists have held the view that the marine ecosystem is pretty robust and can weather the changes to bounce back to normal in a couple of hundred years. However after analyzing a 30-foot-long core sample of Pacific Ocean seafloor, researchers associated with the California Academy of Sciences have come up with a completely different conclusion. It takes only decades to destroy the ocean biomes but it will take thousands of years for the ecosystem to roll back the effects of climate change and sea water de-oxygenation.
Ten thousand of years age increased temperatures had removed oxygen from the seas as massive ice blocks started to melt. Today global warming is melting glaciers and the ice sheets at an alarming rate and scientists are worried this could happen again.
Most of the earlier studies which tried to rebuild the Earth’s climatic history had been based on single celled organisms called Foraminifera. The latest study which has been published in the journal PNAS, focused on multi-cellular life so that a better picture can be obtained of the ecosystems as a whole and the food webs within. More than 5,400 invertebrate fossils, from clams to sea urchins, inside a sediment core from offshore Santa Barbara, California were analyzed by the research team.
Researcher Peter Roopnarine, Academy curator of invertebrate zoology and geology, said in a press release, “In this study, we used the past to forecast the future. Tracing changes in marine biodiversity during historical episodes of warming and cooling tells us what might happen in years to come. We don’t want to hear that ecosystems need thousands of years to recover from disruption, but it’s critical that we understand the global need to combat modern climate impacts.”
The research team analyzed the tube like sediment core which gave a peek into the ocean life as it existed between 3,400 and 16,100 years ago. It gave a clear picture of the scenario before and after the last major deglaciation on Earth – a period characterized by abrupt climate warming when polar ice caps were melting and low oxygen zones in the ocean were expanding.
The results were chilling- seafloor ecosystems which were once full of oxygen became deoxygenated and also lost their incredible biodiversity after the dramatic shift in the climate. What was surprising was that invertebrate fossils were almost non- existent at times when the oxygen levels were lower than average.
For a slice of period less than 100 years, oceanic oxygen levels decreased in between 0.5 and 1.5 mL/L and this minor oxygen fluctuation led to dramatic changes for seafloor communities.
The study hints that coming periods of global climate change can result in similar ecosystem- level effects and the marine life could take millions of years to recover from the damage. 2014 was the hottest year on the planet and experts are expecting to see much larger areas of low-oxygen “dead zones” in the world’s oceans.
It is bad news for different marine organisms which call the oceans home but mankind which depend on these delicate oceanic ecosystems also.
A millennium is not a million years.