The world's first global analysis of marine responses to rising human carbon dioxide emissions made grim predictions for the future of fisheries and ocean ecosystems.
A team of researchers predicted ocean acidification and warming will dramatically reduce diversity in the world's oceans, the University of Adelaide reported.
"This 'simplification' of our oceans will have profound consequences for our current way of life, particularly for coastal populations and those that rely on oceans for food and trade," said Associate Professor Ivan Nagelkerken, Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellow with the University's Environment Institute.
The large meta-analysis included 632 published experiments covering a wide range of subjects ranging from Arctic waters to coral reefs.
"We know relatively little about how climate change will affect the marine environment. Until now, there has been almost total reliance on qualitative reviews and perspectives of potential global change. Where quantitative assessments exist, they typically focus on single stressors, single ecosystems or single species," said University of Adelaide marine ecologist Professor Sean Connell. "This analysis combines the results of all these experiments to study the combined effects of multiple stressors on whole communities, including species interactions and different measures of responses to climate change."
The findings suggest all living marine creatures will be negatively affected by the warming waters except for microorganisms, which will likely increase in number and diversity.
"With higher metabolic rates in the warmer water, and therefore a greater demand for food, there is a mismatch with less food available for carnivores ─ the bigger fish that fisheries industries are based around," said Associate Professor Nagelkerken. "There will be a species collapse from the top of the food chain down."
The findings were published in a recent edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).