EMSO and marine ecosystems
The oceans are home to half of the Earth’s living species. Their ecosystems are characterised by a strong connection between plants and animals and this connection is fundamental to the overall health of marine and land environments. This connection is under threat because of climate change, industrial development, overfishing, and the introduction of invasive species.
These pressures affect the physical, chemical, and biological properties of the ocean water system. Changes in ocean water temperature, stratification, and acidity can have unexpected and unpredictable effects on biodiversity and ecosystem stability. Due to global warming, ocean stratification is increasing, with a warmer water layer forming on top of a cold one, and previously natural mixing being diminished. This phenomenon can lead to a decrease in oxygen levels in some areas of the ocean as warm water holds less oxygen. The marine ecosystem is additionally affected by the increase of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Balancing with the atmosphere, the ocean absorbs more carbon dioxide and becomes more acidic. The increase in ocean acidity impacts the ability of important organisms to calcify, such as molluscs and corals, organisms which are also directly affected adversely by increasing temperature.
We know that human activities, such has global warming or overfishing, affect the ocean ecosystem. However, in order to be able to evaluate the sensitivity of marine species/ecosystems to anthropogenic change, and how we can best address this, it is crucial to understand how the ocean ecosystem functions. This is the main challenge in marine studies of the next decade.
Among the priorities of EMSO is to monitor over time variables related to marine ecosystems to infer how the marine environment is changing in relation to human induced pressure. The ocean ecosystem can be safeguarded only if these changes are identified accurately.