Madrid, 7 (European press)
Lithium mining from the deep sea, the overfishing of deep-sea species, and the unexpected effects of ocean wildfires on land are some of the fifteen problems experts warn need to be addressed now, as published in Nature Ecology & Evolution.
His “horizon scanning” technology focuses on identifying problems that are not currently receiving widespread attention, but will likely become even more important in the next decade.
The aim is to raise awareness and encourage investment in fully assessing these issues now, and potentially driving policy change, before the issues have a significant impact on biodiversity.
Issues include the impact of wildfires on coastal ecosystems, the effects of new biodegradable materials on the marine environment, and an “empty” area at the equator as species move away from this shrinking region of the ocean.
“Marine and coastal ecosystems face a wide range of emerging issues that are not being recognized or poorly understood, each with the potential to impact biodiversity,” said Dr James Herbert Reed from the University’s Department of Zoology in Cambridge (UK). , co-author of the article -.
By highlighting future issues, we indicate where changes must be made today – both in monitoring and policy – to protect our marine and coastal environment. “
In Exploring the Horizon, 30 experts on marine and coastal systems from 11 countries in the world’s north and south participated, with a variety of profiles, including scientists and policy makers.
Many specific problems are related to the exploitation of ocean resources. For example, deep sea “salt water ponds” are unique marine environments that support a great diversity of life and contain high concentrations of lithium-containing salts.
The authors caution that the increasing demand for lithium for electric vehicle batteries may put these environments at risk. They demand standards that ensure biodiversity is assessed before deep saltwater ponds are exploited.
Although poaching is an immediate problem, scanning the horizon goes beyond that and focuses on what might happen in the future.
The authors believe that fishing will soon shift to the deeper waters of the middle seas region (at a depth of 200-1000 m), where the fish is not suitable for human consumption but can be sold as food to fish farms.
Dr Anne Thornton, from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Zoology, who co-authored the research paper, said: “We believe immediate changes could prevent major problems in the next decade, such as overfishing in the mesopelagic region of the ocean.”
Reducing this situation will not only stop the overexploitation of these fish stocks, but also reduce the disruption of the carbon cycle in the ocean, because these species are an oceanic pump that removes carbon from our atmosphere.”
The report also highlights the potential impact of new biodegradable materials on the ocean. Some of these materials are more toxic to marine species than traditional plastic.
“Governments are pushing to use biodegradable materials, but we don’t know the impact of these materials on ocean life,” says Herbert Reed.
The authors also warn that the nutritional content of fish is declining as a result of climate change.
Essential fatty acids tend to be produced by cold-water fish species, so as climate changes increase ocean temperatures, the production of these nutrient molecules decreases.
These changes could have ramifications for both marine life and human health. Not all expected effects are negative.
The authors believe that developing new technologies, such as softer robots and better underwater tracking systems, will allow scientists to better understand and distribute marine species. This, in turn, will guide the development of more effective marine protected areas. But they also caution that the impact of these technologies on biodiversity must be assessed before they are widely deployed.
“Our early identification of these issues and their potential impacts on marine and coastal biodiversity will help scientists, environmental advocates, resource managers, policy makers and the broader community to address the challenges facing marine ecosystems,” says Herbert Reed.
While there are many known issues facing ocean biodiversity, including climate change, ocean acidification and pollution, this study focused on lesser known emerging issues that could soon have a significant impact on marine and coastal ecosystems.
Researchers in the Department of Zoology had previously used this horizon scanning process to identify problems that emerged later; For example, a 2009 survey warned that microplastics could become a major problem in marine environments.
The United Nations has designated 2021-2030 as the United Nations Decade of Oceanography for Sustainable Development.
In addition, the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity will conclude negotiations on a global biodiversity framework by the end of 2022.
The goal is to halt and reverse biodiversity loss and set targets for positive outcomes by 2050.