Environmental Protection

Even Deep Oceans Affected by Climate Change

The results of the study concluded that temperature has the biggest influence on traits such as metabolism and growth rate.

A new, global-wide study of marine species has showcased how the natural gradients in food and temperature affect the residing marine life. The results of the study, published online in the Sept. 4, 2012, issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concluded the deep oceans are not immune to the effects of climate change.

The researchers collected previously published data for hundreds of deep-sea species, measuring metabolic rate, lifespan, growth, biomass, abundance, size, and diversity. The results of the study concluded that temperature has the biggest influence on traits such as metabolism and growth rate. Deep-sea creatures living in warmer waters were found to have faster metabolisms than their cold-water counterparts.

The study also displayed the effects of food on the varying species. Scientists have estimated that less than 1 percent of the food at the surface reaches the deepest points of the ocean, so these species are forced to feed on dead or decaying matter that reaches the ocean's floor. Due to this, areas rich with food tended to have animals that were bigger, more abundant, and more diverse.

All the news was not good, however. As temperatures increase in the oceans, food is becoming less available to these species. "Changes in temperature and food availability associated with climate change could cause widespread extinction in the deep ocean if environmental changes occur faster than deep-sea organisms can respond by shifting their ranges or adapting to new conditions," said Michael Rex, co-author of the study.

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