19 January 2012 | Photos
It’s a challenging time for our oceans and seas. The Gulf of Mexico oil spill and the radiation leak at the Fukushima nuclear plant are stark reminders of the serious threats facing the marine world that have escalated sharply in recent decades.
Climate change tops the list of threats. As oceans absorb man-made carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, they become more acidic. This ocean acidification is accelerating at an alarming rate, harming marine ecosystems and species. Coral bleaching caused by increasing temperatures is affecting not only coral reefs, but the tourism and fishing industries and the coastal communities who rely on healthy seas.
But the oceans also provide an effective weapon in the flight against climate change. Coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, wetlands, seagrasses and salt marshes trap and store huge amounts of carbon. And marine-based renewable energy such as offshore wind and tidal power is a promising way to help reduce carbon emissions.