As the impact of global warming is growing, many things around us have started to change. The ocean is also starting to lose oxygen rapidly. Furthermore, oxygen depletion in the ocean could mean that a lot of marine life in the ocean is being jeopardized. A review was published on Thursday in Science and it reveals the causes and also the consequences if the ocean continues to run out of oxygen. The paper also offers solutions to the “deoxygenation.”
Oxygen containment in the oceans is of utmost importance for marine life to exist. If the oceans ran out of oxygen, marine life would either go extinct or have to adjust to living in a different location.
“Animal life in the ocean needs oxygen to breathe,” said Lisa Levin, study co-author and biological oceanographer at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego according to Newsweek. “If we want a healthy ocean, we need an ocean with oxygen in it.”
The study was done by a group of scientists from the United Nations Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission’s working group which was created in 2016 and named the Global Ocean Oxygen Network (GO2NE). According to the paper, the amount of water in the open ocean that doesn’t have oxygen has quadrupled in 50 years. Furthermore, it is two times worse for coastal waters. The low-oxygen areas have increased tenfold since 1950 in those areas. The paper that was published looks at both ocean and coastal waters, though usually they are studied separately.
Oxygen depletion in the ocean can yield disastrous results for people as well. For example, fish kills in a town in the Philippines are estimated to cost over $10 million, according to the scientists as reported by Newsweek. Also, coral reefs are valued at $172 billion per year, according to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Also, there are bleached corals, which are likely caused by high sea surface temperatures, which can also be damaged by the oxygen depletion in the ocean.
“There are a whole bunch of livelihoods that depend on a healthy ocean that doesn’t smell and have a lot of dead stuff in it,” Levin told Newsweek. “When the oxygen gets very low in the ocean, animals leave if they can.”
The change in the oxygen amount is bound to warmer ocean temperatures. Increased surface temperatures also make it more challenging for oxygen to reach deeper parts of the ocean. Most of the oxygen loss is occurring between 300 and 2,200 feet deep.
“The decline in ocean oxygen ranks among the most serious effects of human activities on the Earth’s environment,” Denise Breitburg, lead author and marine ecologist with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, said in a statement. “Halting climate change requires a global effort but even local actions can help with nutrient-driven oxygen decline,” she added implying that people, together, can contribute to oxygen recovery.
Authors of the study provide a three-pronged approach to solve the problem of oxygen depletion. They stress the importance of stopping the nutrient pollution, and climate change, in order to protect the ocean life from stress, and also to enhance low-oxygen tracking globally.