The ocean makes up 71% of the planet and provides a host of benefits to the entire planet, including humans: it generates the oxygen we breathe, it produces the food we eat, it stores the excess carbon dioxide we generate. However, the effects of rising greenhouse gas emissions increasingly threaten coastal and marine ecosystems and the proof that the ocean and climate change are intrinsically linked is more palpable with each passing day: good evidence is changes in temperature, currents or the rise in sea level, which also affects the health of marine species, ecosystems near the coast and the deep oceans.
Now, new research that has used the tool of the ClimeMarine project to take into account the increase in temperature levels and salinity, has shown that the worst enemy of the oceans remains, without a doubt, climate change.
The tool, called Symphony, is digital software that uses Geographical Information System (GIS) data to help marine planners. The tool shows different marine habitats and how they might be affected by something like pollution or water traffic. Until now, the tool did not take climate change into account.
By modifying Symphony to account for salinity and changes in temperature levels, it “showed that anticipated climate changes will increase the total environmental impact by at least fifty percent , and in some areas, up to several hundred percent,” explained Per Jonsson, a researcher at the University of Gothenburg (Germany) and co-author of the work published in the journal Global Change Biology.
Different ecosystems recorded on GIS maps react differently to these changes, as Symphony shows. “It is a clear signal that we may need to reduce other impacts to reduce the total rate of impact in some areas. For example, in areas with valuable seagrass meadows, we might consider diverting a shipping line or slowing the expansion of marinas and pleasure boating,” Jonsson said.
The tool not only serves to detect the greatest climate impacts, but also to identify areas that will, in theory, experience less climate impact, such as so-called upwelling areas such as on the island of Gotland, where deep cold water rises and cools the water. on the surface. According to experts, these areas could represent authentic climatic refuges, where sensitive species can survive.
“Marine reserves can be considered to protect these areas, where we ‘remove’ other factors that have an impact. Sweden has committed to establishing several new marine protected areas, and Symphony can help identify where they should be located ,” the authors say. “What we present in the study can be seen as educated guesswork based on the information we currently have. But the effects of a changing climate clearly need to be incorporated into marine planning.”
Reference: Iréne Wåhlström, Linus Hammar, Duncan Hume, Jonas Pålsson, Elin Almroth‐Rosell, Christian Dieterich, Lars Arneborg, Matthias Gröger, Martin Mattsson, Lovisa Zillén Snowball, Gustav Kågesten, Oscar Törnqvist, Emilie Breviere, Sandra‐Esther Brunnabend, Per R. Jonsson. Projected climate change impact on a coastal sea—As significant as all current pressures combined. Global Change Biology, 2022; 28 (17): 5310 DOI: 10.1111/gcb.16312