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Mass extinctions in the oceans: marine eco system to take the first hit from global warming

Sunrise from Sunny Isles, Miami, Florida.
Sunrise from Sunny Isles, Miami, Florida.
Jimmy Baikovicius/Flickr

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Warnings and alarms about the ill health of our oceans have been sounded for quite some time, from disappearing coral reefs to over fishing of several marine life species. But this latest report from the International Program on the State of the Ocean is dire and unflinching in its prediction: without major action to arrest the collapse of ocean ecosystems, massive extinctions of species within a generation is assured. The report concludes, “This examination of synergistic threats leads to the conclusion that we have underestimated the overall risks and that the whole of marine degradation is greater than the sum of its parts, and that degradation is now happening at a faster rate than predicted.” The three culprits in the disturbance of ocean ecology are global warming, ocean acidification and hypoxia, or reduced oxygen content in the seas. All of the world’s coral reefs could be gone in less than 100 years. What are the possible solutions and can this march toward extinction be stopped? The report calls for immediate action by global bodies like the United Nations and measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, but the UN has been trying for an international agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions for years. Can the ocean’s species be saved?


Jackie Savitz, senior marine scientist and campaign director at Oceana, an international ocean conservation group that works to protect and restore oceans