Posted by: John Gilmore | September 15, 2006

Rising Temperatures Harm Ocean Plant Life – July 28 2010

Today – articles like the one below are probably interesting to most people – but not really concerning.  Maybe the earth is warming – maybe not.  Maybe a rise in sea temperature will cause long term damage – maybe not. Maybe these things will cause serious problems during my lifetime – but probably not.

The human race has always been stubborn – extremely short sighted – and many times – just plain lazy. People started smoking for years because certain corporations said it was A-OK – there were no ‘official’ studies that ever linked smoking to cancer. Did we really think that inhaling smoke and toxic fumes into our lungs would have no long term effects on our health?  Probably not – but we liked smoking – so we did it anyway – and the long term consequences have been catastrophic to many of us.

Do we really believe that eating fast food and drinking sugar laden soda will not adversely affect our health?  Probably not – but we like how it tastes – so we do it anyway – and the long term consequences have been catastrophic for the health of our nation.

Do we really believe that our economy can grow forever in a finite world?  Not really – but every generation for the past 100 years has believed that they could pass the problem to the next – until now.  Now – our generation gets to witness the long term consequences of placing our faith with the world and its leaders.

Do we really believe that we can take millions upon millions of tons of hydrocarbons out of the earth – and throw them up in the atmosphere without consequences?  Not really – but like many of our decisions – we don’t think about the long term consequences of our actions.  For most of us – it’s all about the here and now.  If it makes my life easier today to ignore the truth of what my decision may do long term – I’m A-OK with it.  We tell ourselves that a decision that may hurt others – either now or in the future – is fine if it somehow benefits me.

While we are living a sinful life – we don’t like to think that there is a righteous God who will someday judge us for what we have done – so we simply tell ourselves He doesn’t exist – and the problem is solved.  We tell ourselves the lie that we were somehow created out of nothing – by no one.  We ignore the small, quiet voice in our minds telling us that this can’t possibly be true – that it is impossible that something as complex and magnificent as the earth and the life on it could be created from a void by some cosmic accident.  Even though the odds of this happening by chance are so great that it cannot accurately be calculated – we like living apart from God and His laws – so we embrace the world and its sinful ways.

We love to ignore the truth when it is unpleasant or we simply don’t like it or if it costs us something. Ignoring the truth is leading us to our destruction and the destruction of the earth.  This isn’t hypothetical or some exercise in philosophy – the Bible tells us that at the end of our reign during this evil age – the earth will be laid waste.  The signs are growing more ominous – and few are paying attention.

Will our nation embrace the truth in time?

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.(Proverbs 14:12)

jg – July 28, 2010


JULY 28, 2010, 2:02 P.M. ET

Rising Temperatures Harm Ocean Plant Life, Research Finds


Wall St. Journal

Rising temperatures can have a harmful effect on the tiny plant life that forms the base of the marine food chain and also likely affects marine diversity, new research has found.

Over the years, humans have stressed the oceans through pollution, over-fishing and habitat alteration such as dredging. Less well understood is the role of higher sea temperatures, which many scientists believe is linked to global climate change. Estimates suggest that the oceans have warmed a total of roughly half a degree Celsius on average over the past century.

Two studies, both published in the journal Nature, offer insight into some effects of a warming ocean. One finds a strong link between higher sea-surface temperatures and a major decline in phytoplankton, or ocean algae, over the past century. The second study concludes that warmer seas can influence marine diversity. In the long run, this may rearrange the global distribution of ocean life.

Oceanographers have long debated whether the oceans are getting more, or less, green with algae. Key to the debate is phytoplankton, microscopic plant life that forms the base of the marine food chain, from crustaceans to fish, and ultimately humans. The algae have increased in many coastal areas because increased runoff from rivers brings nutrients that the algae flourish on. Here blooms can be bad, because they release toxins or otherwise damage marine life. But no one has measured the long-term abundance in the global oceans.

Consistent satellite-based measurements exist only from 1997 onward. For a longer view, scientists at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada, used data obtained with a simple oceanography device known as a secchi.

Since the late 1800s, scientists globally have routinely used this disk, which is lowered into the water until it can no longer be seen. The measured depth of the device provides an estimate of water clarity. For most of the ocean, it is a proxy measure of phytoplankton abundance.

By collating and analyzing about half a million secchi observations, plus other direct measurements of algae, the Dalhousie team estimated that phytoplankton levels declined about 1% of the global average each year from 1899 onward. The data are more carefully maintained and more reliable for recent decades, translating into a 40% decline in algae since 1950.

A decline is worrisome because phytoplankton generate roughly half of all organic matter—the building-block of life—on the planet. The team investigated several factors that could have caused the decline, including wind intensity, cyclical climate changes, and sea-surface temperature. “We found that temperature had the best power to explain the changes,” said Boris Worm, a marine biologist at Dalhousie and co-author of the study.

Marine algae live in the upper layers of the ocean but rely on nutrients that circulate up from lower layers. Rising temperatures means less mixing in the water, so fewer nutrients reach the algae. However, Dr. Worm notes that algal abundance can be affected by other factors, such as shifts in predator-prey populations.

Mike Behrenfeld, an expert on phytoplankton who has read the Nature paper, said it was similar to a 1992 study which also used secchi data to show a long-term decline in marine algae in the north Pacific. “But this paper covers the globe,” said Dr. Behrenfeld of Oregon State University. “And the scientists also took the next step of relating the [algal decline] to sea temperatures.”

Another team of scientists, including Dr. Worm, mapped the diversity of marine life on a broad scale. One surprise finding was that while coastal marine species showed greater diversity at the equator, the diversity of oceanic species peaked in the mid-latitudes. That’s unlike terrestrial diversity, which largely peaks at the tropics.

The researchers also analyzed possible links between the global distribution of 11,000 marine species—big and small—to such environmental factors as temperature, oxygen levels and habitat availability. The study builds on the decade-long effort by the Census of Marine Life to compile occurrence records for marine species. For all species types, only one factor showed a consistent correlation to diversity: sea temperature.

It’s not clear what this means globally, though. When the water warms, some species may move elsewhere, reducing the diversity of their original habitat. Creatures that can’t move may come under environmental stress or die off, also altering the ecosystem.

“While a changing climate is likely to lead to a change in patterns of diversity, we don’t have the data yet to know what this response might look like,” said Derek P. Tittensor, marine ecologist at Dalhousie and co-author of the second Nature paper, which analyzed marine diversity.

Meanwhile, other scientists are trying to assess how sea creatures respond to declining oxygen levels, caused by pollution or natural factors. Most of the 400 oxygen-depleted “dead zones” identified by scientists so far are near areas of human impact. Together, they cover an area of 96,500 square miles (250,000 square kilometers).

When oxygen levels drop, animals in the area fight for what’s left. Many don’t survive. A team of scientists from the University of Vienna lowered a plexiglass box to the Adriatic sea floor and used a time-lapse camera to document how various creatures inside responded as oxygen levels dropped.

A future catalog of such behaviors could help scientists identify areas in the ocean where oxygen depletion is underway. Some of the results will be published in Marine Ecology Progress Series, a scientific journal.


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