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New Study Predicts When Ocean Life Will Die Off In Mass Extinction

by : Jess Hardiman on :
New Study Predicts When Ocean Life Will Die Off In Mass Extinction
New Study Predicts When Ocean Life Will Die Off In Mass Extinction (Alamy)

Scientists have predicted when ocean life will die off in a ‘mass extinction’ if we don’t do enough to curb harmful greenhouse gas emissions, warning that there may be losses of ‘unknown severity’. 

A new study titled ‘Avoiding ocean mass extinction from climate warning’, published in the journal Science, researchers outline how marine species face ‘particular risks’ from climate change, as seas steadily rise in temperature due to the extra heat created by burning fossil fuels. 

According to authors Justin Penn and Curtis Deutsch, the accelerating greenhouse gas emissions contributing to the increasingly warming waters and oxygen depletion will mean that fewer species are likely to survive. 

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Scientists have predicted when a 'mass extinction' will happen in the ocean if we don’t do enough to curb harmful greenhouse gas emissions. Credit: Alamy
Scientists have predicted when a 'mass extinction' will happen in the ocean if we don’t do enough to curb harmful greenhouse gas emissions. Credit: Alamy

They predict that the planet could face a ‘mass extinction rivaling those in Earth’s past’ by the year 2300, drawing parallels with the end of the Permian period 252 million years ago – which was known as the ‘Great Dying’, and led to the demise of up to 96 percent of the world’s marine animals. 

Curtis Deutsch, professor of geosciences at Princeton University, said: "If we don’t act to curb emissions, that extinction is quite high. It registers on the geological scale among the major biotic collapses of diversity in the Earth’s history.” 

A press release from Princeton University explained how the researchers combined existing physiological data on marine species with models of climate change to 'predict how changes in habitat conditions will affect the survival of sea animals around the globe over the next few centuries'.

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They compared their model to 'pass mass extinctions captured in the fossil record', building on their own earlier work that 'linked the geographic pattern of Earth’s deadliest extinction event — the end-Permian extinction about 250 million years ago — to its underlying drivers: climate warming and oxygen loss from the oceans'.

However, the duo believe that the fate is not necessarily sealed, asserting that by reversing greenhouse emission trends, we can ‘diminish extinction risks by more than 70 percent’.

The fate of the ocean is not necessarily sealed, thankfully, and it's up to us to change things. Credit: Alamy
The fate of the ocean is not necessarily sealed, thankfully, and it's up to us to change things. Credit: Alamy

Penn, a postdoctoral research associate in geosciences at Princeton University, said: “The silver lining is that the future isn’t written in stone. The extinction magnitude that we found depends strongly on how much carbon dioxide [CO2] we emit moving forward.

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"There’s still enough time to change the trajectory of CO2 emissions and prevent the magnitude of warming that would cause this mass extinction.” 

Deutsch agreed: "Aggressive and rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are critical for avoiding a major mass extinction of ocean species."

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