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Impact of Climate Change on Ocean Life

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Abstract

Climate change has been the most important of all the issues humanity has faced in the past few centuries. Debates have been made on who is responsible for this climate change, and surprisingly, the majority of debaters agree on one culprit i.e., Human Beings. Humanity is responsible for most of the climate change occurring in this world. We build industries that pollute our environment with harmful substances leading to the difference in the climate. With its effects diverse, the difference in mood has not left 70% of the world alone i.e., Water life. The impact of climate change has reached the aquatic life as well and leading to its destruction. The melting of glaciers in Antarctic regions has led to polar bears and penguins species becoming endangered. Also, this melting has led to an increase in the water levels, leading to the erosion of beaches and the elimination of nesting places for many aquatic species such as turtles. Destruction of planktons is also a leading cause of extinction of many species since no food material is left for them to feed on. Many of the aquatic species are becoming endangered, and some extinct, marine life is on the verge of destruction. Also, the loss of freshwater bodies is affecting in the form of droughts and floods. Steps need to be taken, or else we would be without water and water-life soon.

Impact of Climate Change on Ocean Life

Body

The change in climate has been discussed globally in various sectors and by different people. Today’s climatic conditions aren’t the same as those experienced years back. There have been several debates on the major causes of climatic change and various ways of trying to reduce the problem. Its effects are felt globally, and one of the significant effects is the changing weather patterns. Apart from affecting weather patterns and agriculture, it also affects ocean life.

Climate change may generally be defined as the change in climate patterns due to high carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. There are various causes of climate change, both natural and human. Some of the natural causes may include volcanic activity and solar output. A great percentage of climate change has been attributed to human activities mainly, burning of fossil fuels and industrial waste gives rise to high carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. (CEICC & BLS & DE & LSNRC, 23). Water bodies around the world have also been affected by climate change. Many of these water bodies are a major source of water to be consumed by animals and humans and also to be used for agricultural purposes. Change in a climate such as Global Warming and depletion of these water bodies is causing adverse effects on our environment and the ecosystem. Some of these effects include an increase in drought and floods, causing people to be displaced. It also leads to less freshwater, causing a reduction in the food produced and the revenue from agriculture (CEICC et al., 23). 

“Climate change is also driving phonological shifts” (pg 20).  Polar bears are known to be utterly dependent on ice to survive. Since 2008, the polar bear has been among endangered species, and many other creatures might soon follow suit if the climatic conditions continue within the current trend. Other animals are troubled by the changing climate, and sea turtles are among them. They are affected by the rising temperature and sea levels at sea (CEICC et al., 24).

Currently, there are six species of sea turtles that have been enlisted as endangered. They include loggerheads, green turtles, kemp’s ridleys, leatherbacks, hawksbills, and olive ridleys. They are threatened due to the erosion of their nesting beaches and invasion by humans and animals that prey on their eggs. The reproduction of sea turtles is directly affected by climate change in three ways. Climate change causes sea levels to rise, which washes away the sand on low-level sand beaches. This reduces their nesting areas making it difficult for them to lay their eggs and reproduce. Secondly, climate change causes a rise in temperature. This affects the sand in that it becomes unfavorably hot for egg incubation. This, in turn, means that the eggs do not get to hatch. Thirdly, the high temperature affects the sex of the egg. The incubation temperature determines the egg’s sex, and high temperature favors females. If this continues, at some point, no male sea turtles will be present, and reproduction will stop (CEICC et al., 23).

“If all the different species in an ecosystem shifted their spring behavior in the same way, the impact of warming temperatures might be minimal”(pg 21). Their feeding pattern is also affected by climate change. Their food, main seagrass on sea beds, and coral reefs are on the decline due to unfavorable conditions. The high-temperature waters affect the growth of the plants making their survival difficult. Sea turtles are known to survive harsh conditions though they might require some time to adapt to a new way of living considering the human encroachment of their nesting grounds on coastal areas.

The right whales are other ocean creatures affected by climate change. Their growth gets to fifty-five feet long and weighs about seventy tons. The climatic change has led to their decrease in number to less than five hundred in the world. Human activity has been the primary blame for this reduction in right whales. These activities include commercial fishing activities and human-induced global warming. These affect the right whale’s primary food ingredient that is the shrimp. It is their principal food source and highly needed for their survival and reproduction.

Lack of dense patches of this ingredient causes the female right whales not to bulk up for calving purposes; they cannot carry a pregnancy to full term and are also unable to produce enough milk for their young ones. A low concentration of this zooplankton causes the whales not to feed. Changes in climate affect sea water temperature, water currents, and winds, determining the zooplankton concentration patches. Converging currents or boundaries of different water densities form an excellent condition for a high concentration of zooplankton that is favorable for the whales (CEICC et al., 24).

The North Atlantic Oscillation favors the abundance of zooplankton when it is positive. This means that the survival and reproduction of the right whales are possible. The decline in the number of right whales shows a negative trend of NAO, which global warming causes. The change in water temperatures makes it difficult for meeting currents to provide a conducive environment for the high concentration of zooplankton. If the trend continues, the reduction in the number of right whales will also continue.

Penguins are other creatures affected by climate change. Like the others, the changing climate has affected their living conditions, meaning they have to adapt to new situations. The penguins feed on krill and fish, and climate change has caused a reduction in these creatures. This means that they have to hunt for more extended and over a wide range to get their meals. The result of this is not enough food for them to function normally. Part of functioning is typically being able to rest and feed well under favorable conditions (CEICC et al., 22). The increased temperatures have also affected them, considering that they also do well on good sea ice. The high temperatures have caused most ice to melt, leaving the water a bit too warm for the penguins. When their food decreases and their living space is interfered with, their health is interfered with more so their reproductive health. Some penguin species have had to move in search of favorable living conditions. This means that they have had to learn to incorporate new ways of surviving. (CEICC et al., 23).

Have seals also been affected by climate change, and how? Various Arctic wildlife populations have had to change and adapt to changes in their living areas. The main modified factor in ocean life is sea ice. Seals are known to use sea ice as their resting place in between their search for mussels and fish. The retreat of this ice has reduced the platform for seals to rest and provide for their young ones. The warm climate has caused a decrease in the main ingredients of the seafood chain. The interference if the seafood chain has had a significant impact on seals since a break in the chain affects the end recipient. The changing climate has led to a decrease in the food produced and eaten by small creatures that are consumed by the big ones like the seals and penguins. This change means that the seal might decrease to more alarming figures if it is not addressed in good time. It will be another statistic in addition to other endangered species mentioned above (CEICC et al., 24).

Lobsters are also among the affected species of ocean life. Lobsters are cold-blooded creatures, and the temperature of the water they live in determines their body’s temperature. As we now know, climate change has caused global warming, which has affected water bodies. Their temperature has increased to highs that are not conducive to most ocean creatures. When cold-blooded animals are put under high temperatures, they use more energy for respiration; this, in turn, leaves them with very little power to feed, store energy, to grow, and respond to immunity when attacked.

Lobsters move to higher altitudes when the water temperature gets too high. This is because high temperatures result in more energy being used for respiration and more oxygen than is available. This leaves them very exhausted and unable to be productive and reproduce. This leads to a decreasing in number due to death, human activities, and not printing. As much as they can relocate searching for calmer waters, it might get to a point where it will be impossible given the rate at which the water temperature is increasing due to climate change.

The high temperature does not only cause breathing problems and depletion of energy. It also causes lobster shell disease, which is a threat to the species. Given that the high temperature affects their immune system, it will be tough for them to fight the disease and survive. This also contributes to their deaths and lack of reproduction. When they are sick, they have no energy to fend for themselves or get involved in any activities, including reproduction (CEICC et al., 20).

Fish are also affected by climate change, especially the high temperatures experienced in the water. Like other ocean life, fish are more comfortable in calmer waters, and the high temperatures affect their food, feeding patterns, reproductive patterns, and survival efforts. This goes hand in hand with agricultural activities by humans. Climate change has caused weather patterns to change, affecting agrarian movements. This has led to low production of food, while populations are still growing. These populations need food to survive, and so an alternative had to be found.

“With seafood supplying more than 1 billion people worldwide with the primary source of protein, and demand for seafood rising rapidly, the future of world fisheries is of vital importance” (pg 23). Fishing has become a significant activity in many parts of the world, both for subsistence and economic activities. Fish has been used as a supplementary food product for crop food for many years. However, the decline in crop food has increased the demand for fish, leading to high levels of fishing and a decrease in various species. This and the high temperatures of seawater may see the disappearance of fish if the trend does not change. An effort is being made to find out more ways for fish like the cod to survive in harsh conditions.

Various measures are being taken to help ocean life, just like being made to help animals on the ground. The primary cause of their depletion is human activity, mainly encroachment and being involved in activities that favor global warming. It would be sad to watch most of these species disappear due to causes that can be dealt with. Some of them are a great tourist attraction and bring revenue to their respective countries. It is highly essential to protect them and ensure that they are under a conducive environment for good health and reproduction (CEICC et al., 21).

 It took years to see and feel the consequences of climate change. It might also take the same number of years or even more to improve the current conditions for ocean life to have their typical habitat back. However, the efforts put towards reducing these effects will be productive when their numbers increase again and the number of endangered species reduced. It will not only be beneficial to these creatures but also for us as human beings in terms of food production and economic activities.

Graphs and Pictures

The following pictures and graphs show some of the effects of climatic changes such as global warming on aquatic life as well as on our environment.

Land Surface air Temperature

Global Temperature Change

Measurements of Surface

Bleaching of coral reefs due to increased aquatic temperature as a result of global warming

Bleaching of coral reefs due to increased aquatic temperature as a result of global warming

Work Cited;
  • Committee on Ecological Impacts on Climate Change, Board on Life Sciences, Division on
  • Earth and Life Studies & National Research Council. Ecological Impacts of Climate Change. NW, Washington: National Academies Press. 2008. Print.
  • Planning for a Changing Climate and Its Impacts on Wildlife and Oceans: State and Federal Efforts and Needs ; and H.r. 4455, Wildlife Without Borders Authorization Act : Oversight and Legislative Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans of the Committee on Natural Resources, U.s. House of Representatives, One Hundred Tenth Congress, Second Session, Tuesday, June 24, 2008. Washington: U.S. G.P.O, 2009. Internet resource.
  • Climate Change and Northern Fish Populations. Ottawa: National Research Council, 1999. Internet resource.
  • Sundaresan, J. Climate Change and Island and Coastal Vulnerability. Dordrecht: Springer, 2013. Internet resource.
  • Firth, Penelope, and Stuart G. Fisher. Global Climate Change and Freshwater Ecosystems. New York: Springer-Verlag, 1992. Print.
  • Samenow, Jason. “National Climate Assessment: 15 arresting images of climate change now and in the pipeline.”Washington Post. The Washington Post, 6 May 2014. Web. 9 May 2014. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weather-gang/wp/2014/05/06/national-climate-assessment-15-arresting-images-of-climate-change-now-and-in-the-pipeline/>.

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