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  • Monday, November 14, 2005

    Fish Numbers Plummet in Warming Pacific

    From the Independent via Common Dreams:

    A catastrophic collapse in sea and bird life numbers along America's Northwest Pacific seaboard is raising fears that global warming is beginning to irreparably damage the health of the oceans.

    Scientists say a dramatic rise in the ocean temperature led to unprecedented deaths of birds and fish this summer all along the coast from central California to British Columbia in Canada.

    The population of seabirds, such as cormorants, auklets and murres, and fish, including salmon and rockfish, fell to record lows.

    This ecological meltdown mirrors a similar development taking place thousands of miles away in the North Sea, which The Independent on Sunday first reported two years ago. Also caused by warming of the water, the increase in temperatures there has driven the plankton that form the base of the marine food chain hundreds of miles north, triggering a collapse in the number of sand eels on which many birds and large fish feed and causing a rapid decline in puffins, razorbills, kittiwakes and other birds.

    The collapses in the Pacific are also down to the disappearance of plankton, though the immediate cause for this is different. Normally, winds blow south along the coast in spring and summer, pushing warmer surface waters away from the shore and allowing colder water that is rich in nutrients to well up from the sea bottom, feeding the microscopic plants called phytoplankton. These are eaten by zooplankton, tiny animals that in turn feed fish, seabirds and marine mammals.

    But this year the winds were extraordinarily weak and the cold water did not well up in spring as usual. Water temperatures soared to 7C above normal, which delighted bathers but caused the whole delicate system to collapse. The amount of phytoplankton crashed to a quarter of its usual level.

    4 Comments:

    At 11/19/2005 11:24:00 pm, Blogger timx said...

    The Inuit way of life has already been substantially disrupted by the warming of the ocean in the Arctic regions - the sea is not freezing the way it should. Global warming is not a phenomenon which can be combatted with long-term careful planning; it's already too late for that!

     
    At 11/20/2005 04:20:00 am, Blogger DJEB said...

    Timx I know you know about the feedback problem of the arctic. Less albedo means more melting means more methane released - particularly from Siberia - and more CO2 released which means more carbonic acid forming in the oceans which means more CO2 released when they die off due to acidic. We could be in for real trouble really fast if we're not lucky. Here's to peak oil.

     
    At 11/20/2005 04:28:00 pm, Blogger Jez said...

    So what can we do?!

     
    At 11/20/2005 05:26:00 pm, Blogger DJEB said...

    Good question. The logical thing to do would be to do everything we can to reduce emmisions and sequester carbon and hope for the best.

     

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