Falling Oxygen Levels In World's Oceans Could Prove Catastrophic For Marine Life - Study

  • Mary Nichols , Design & Trend Contributor
  • Apr, 30, 2016, 05:42 PM
Tags : science
Climate Change
(Photo : Getty Images/Donald Miralle) Unlike humans, who need to surface above water to breathe, most ocean life relies on the presence of dissolved oxygen to breathe.

Unlike humans, who need to surface above water to breathe, most ocean life relies on the presence of dissolved oxygen to breathe.

However, a new study has found that marine life including fish, rock lobster and octopus may soon be struggling to get their oxygen supply as climate change depletes the world's oceans of oxygen, writes Christian Science Monitor.

"Loss of oxygen in the ocean is one of the serious side effects of a warming atmosphere, and a major threat to marine life," lead author Dr. Matthew Long, a researcher at the National Center for Atmospheric Research said in a press release.

The ocean gets its oxygen supply from the surface - absorbing oxygen from the atmosphere. A secondary source comes from phytoplankton that releases oxygen into the ocean through photosynthesis processes.

A warming planet means that less oxygen enters the top layers of the ocean. Warm water has higher buoyancy than cooler water, resulting in less oxygen reaching the depths of the ocean.

This means that a warming earth will have a grim effect on sea life that relies on oxygen to survive -- including those fished for commericial purposes.

"Many forms of marine life depend on oxygen, they require oxygen to survive," Dr. Long told Christian Science Monitor.

"As oxygen levels decline, the increasing stresses on ocean systems, as well as implications for our ability to extract the services of these marine resources," he added.

Researchers have long known that decreasing oxygen levels would affect ocean life. However, scientists have long struggled to separate the effects of climate change from naturally occurring variations in oxygen concentration on the ocean's surface.

However, using NCAR's atmospheric supercomputer to provide simulations to determine the future point at which natural variations in oxygen levels would be overcome by the changes caused by a warming planet. According to the study, this point is less than 15 years away.

"The bottom line," Dr. Long told Christian Science Monitor, "is that without addressing climate warming, there is not much we can do to address deoxygenation."

The study was published in the journal Global Biogeochemical Cycles.

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