A new study published in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution says that marine life is faced with the threat of a major extinction.
“Currently, the Earth is again in a period of increased extinctions and extinction risks, this time mainly caused by human factors,” the scientists stated in their paper.
A team of researchers from Australia, the US, Canada, Germany, Panama, Norway and the UK used historical and fossil records to compare past extinctions of sea life with events occurring now and have concluded that sea life is facing a greater risk of mass extinction than any other time in human history.
“It is very useful to look back in time – because if you forget your history, you’re liable to repeat it.”
There have been five mass extinctions over the last 500 million years and three of those have been associated with global warming and ocean acidification. Other extinctions have been driven by loss of oxygen in seawater, pollution, habitat loss, and fishing pressure. The “Great Dying” of the Permian nearly 250 million years ago was a combination of almost all these factors–over 95 percent of marine life was wiped out due to warming, acidification, and habitat and oxygen loss.
“We are seeing the signature of all those drivers today – plus the added drivers of human overexploitation and pollution from chemicals, plastics and nutrients,” explained Professor John Pandolfi of the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and the University of Queensland.
“The fossil record tells us that sea life is very resilient – that it recovers after one of these huge setbacks. But also that it can take millions of years to do so.”
Copyright © 2012 by Marine Science Today, a publication of OceanLines LLC.