OSU researcher: Climate change will decimate oceans by 2100

OSU researcher: Climate change will decimate oceans by 2100
Deep sea hard substrate are among the areas that will be heavily impacted by climate change over the next 87 years, according to a report led by OSU researcher Andrew Thurbur. That's bad news for these Sea Lilys and other ocean inhabitants. (Photo from NOAA)

A new Oregon State University-led report issued Wednesday warns that climate change will destroy the world’s oceans by 2100.

The study, co-written by Andrew Thurber, an OSU oceanographer, concludes that by the year 2100, about 98 percent of the oceans will be affected by acidification, warming temperatures, low oxygen or lack of biological productivity. What’s more, “most areas will be stricken by a multitude of these stressors,” Thurber said.

The changes will be triggered by “human-generated greenhouse gas emissions” that will affect marine habitats and organisms and will co-occur in areas heavily used by humans.

The study was backed by the Norwegian Research Council and Foundation through its support of the International Network for Scientific investigation of deep-sea ecosystems.

Thurber said 2 billion people will be affected by the changes.

“If we look on a global scale, between 400 million and 800 million people are both dependent on the ocean for their livelihood and also make less than $4,000 annually,” Thurber said in a release. “Adapting to climate change is a costly endeavor, whether it is retooling a fishing fleet to target a changing fish stock, or moving to a new area or occupation.”

The findings don’t even take sea level rise, pollution, over-fishing and storm activity into account, added the post-doctoral fellow in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences.

Thurber and three other researchers used global distribution maps of 32 marine habitats and biodiversity hotspots. Climate models laid over the hotspots delivered a range of outcomes, but each result suggested negative impacts of varying intensities from the four major stressors.

No ocean waters will be as cool or less acidic than they are today, Thurber’s team found.

“When you look at overlapping stressors, the Northern Hemisphere appears to be in real trouble,” Thurber said. “The same grim outlook is apparent for the strong upwelling zones off Chile and southern Africa. Another ‘red spot’ is the Pacific Northwest of the United States, which already is seeing the impact of low oxygen and rising acidification.”

The team’s models also suggest that marine food webs based on the production of euphausiids and other krill, or tiny marine crustaceans, are greatly at-risk.

Among the other team members, Camila Mora of the University of Hawai’i at Mañoa led an effort to include shallow water and the human elements into the data analysis.

“Everything from species survival to abundance, to range size, to body size, to species richness, to ecosystem functioning are affected by changes in ocean biogeochemistry,” Mora said.

Click through on the photo above for pictures demonstrating what the researchers believe the effects of climate change will exact on oceans over the next 87 years.

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