Oceans contain a myriad of fragile ecosystems, which can be harmed by any number of things, like pollution, invasive species, or climate change. According to a new study by researchers at the ARC Center for Excellence in Coral Reef Studies, warming oceans will cause profound changes in ocean ecosystems, putting as many as 13,000 species at risk.
The biggest problem is that rising ocean temperatures will cause numerous species to expand into new regions in search of colder water. As water temperatures rise, fish and other aquatic species will move further north or south, depending on where they are, or out to deeper water, or into colder pockets of water in order to survive. Once there, those new species will disrupt the existing ecosystems, preying on species that haven’t developed defenses against them or out-competing existing species for now scarcer resources.
Of course, some species will not be able to migrate and find new regions. Many species will be stuck in the tropical regions, and rising temperatures may well spell their doom as their food sources leave, or the temperature of the water is simply to high to survive.
The models that the researchers used showed huge biodiversity losses, with many ecosystems becoming more similar to neighboring systems. Less biodiversity means that those ecosystems will be even less likely to respond to a changing environment, making further extinctions even more likely.
The researchers hope that this new study will help us plan for greater conservation efforts, in order to help prevent the loss of species before it happens. At the same time, it stands as a warning that climate change will have and even greater impact on the world in the future. Planning to help species adapt is an excellent goal, but if we can find ways to reduce carbon emissions in the first place, maybe we can keep the oceans from getting too warm in the first place.