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Extinction of ocean life is ‘speeding up’

Different environmental factors are combining to accelerate the process of extinction in the oceans.

Image: Mattk1979 via Flickr

THE SPEED AT which marine life is becoming threatened with extinction is accelerating at a far more rapid pace than experts previously thought.

A scientific report has found that a number of factors, including climate change, over fishing and pollution, are combining in new ways to have a drastic effects on a wide range of plant and animal species in the world’s oceans.

A group of marine experts that have gathered at a workshop in Oxford this week warned that entire ecosystems such as coral reefs could be lost in a few decades, the BBC reports.

The panel was brought together by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean and includes fisheries experts, coral reef ecologists and toxicologists.

The group will report formally later this week. Alex Rogers, the IPSO scientific director and professor of conservation biology at Oxford University said the scientists were seeing changes in ocean life that they didn’t expect to see for” hundreds of years”.

He said the rate of change had also increased vastly in comparison to what they had expected, even just a couple of years previously. These changes include the melting of the Anatartic and Greenland ice sheets, rapid increases in sea levels and the release of methane in the sea bed. Professor Rogers said:

We’ve still got most of the world’s biodiversity, but the actual rate of extinction is much higher [than in past events] – and what we face is certainly a globally significant extinction event.

In addition, the experts noted that life on earth had gone through five extinction phases and that human beings would most likely create the sixth phase, which would be far more rapid than the previous phases.

The Daily Telegraph reports that the experts maintain that increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere is to blame for increasing ocean temperatures.

This rise in sea temperatures was boosting algae levels, which is in turn leading to a fall off in the levels of oxygen in the water and increasing acidity levels.

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