By Jalen Xing
Rising ocean temperatures can potentially destroy ecosystems in the ocean. Many of the coral reefs in the ocean, which house a large majority of the ocean’s biodiversity, are bleached due to the increase in temperature. Not only do the warmer temperatures affect coral, but they also affect fish and cephalopods.
The resulting warming temperatures will result in a loss of oxygen, shrinking “hundreds of fish species—from tunas and groupers to salmon, thresher sharks, haddock and cod” (National Geographic)— that provide detrimental effects on the ecosystem. “What we found was that the body size of fish decreases by 20 to 30 percent for every 1 degree Celsius increase in water temperature,” says author William Cheung, director of science for the university’s Nippon Foundation—Nereus Program. This can play a huge role in the food web, since many larger fish eat smaller fish, and as the entire fish population begins to shrink, there may be a substantial change in the hierarchy of the food web.
Another drastic effect is the melting of polar ice, which affects the Arctic Sea. The production of algae is heavily reliant on the polar ice, and as temperatures begin to increase and melt the ice, the algae begin to deplete as well. Since algae are on the bottom of the food chain, this can create a ripple effect up the food chain on higher-level predators such as whales, seals, and bears. Not only does the melting of polar ice affect algae but it also destroys habits for many animals such as seals, walruses, penguins, whales, and most importantly Antarctica Krill, which provide important food for seabirds and mammals.
With the dramatic decrease in food for the higher-level predators, this may result in them finding food through other means, such as moving habitats or coming into human interaction, which will drastically skew the ecosystem. The temperature of the ocean also plays a key factor for when many of these animals will produce offspring. For example, dependent on the temperature, sea turtles and some fish determine their ratio of male-to-female. Therefore, with the rise in temperature, the number of females and males will be skewed, which affects future generations of these animals.
Finally, with the rise of temperatures lead to ocean levels rising, Mangrove forests are very dependent on the ocean level, which provides the base of many food webs with organic matter. Furthermore, mangrove forests trap certain sediments, resulting in the stabilization of coastlines, protecting coral reefs and seagrass meadows. As ocean levels and temperatures continue to rise, people will not only see the repercussions of climate change but also the biodiversity in the ocean.