HONOLULU (CN) — A new IUCN report released this week says the impacts of ocean warming caused by human activity have begun to ripple through the marine environment, touching diverse species from whales to microorganisms.
While oceans have absorbed most of the global warming and captured a quarter of the carbon dioxide generated by greenhouse effects, the increased warmth of ocean waters has begun to drive many species like pelagic tuna, Atlantic herring and mackerel, and European anchovies toward the poles in search of cooler waters, scientists say.
In addition, ocean acidification has resulted in well-documented ecosystem crises including massive coral bleaching in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and kelp forest deaths. Meanwhile, rising sea levels pose significant challenges to turtles and sea birds as nesting grounds disappear.
And of course indigenous human cultures are threatened and entire Pacific island atoll nations slip beneath the waves, as former Kiribati president Anote Tong related in an ocean sustainability forum on Monday at the World Conservation Congress in Honolulu.
The 450-page report on ocean warming, authored by 80 scientists from around the world, was released over the weekend — ahead of voting by the IUCN member’s assembly.
The highest decision-making body of IUCN, the assembly meets every four years during the World Conservation Congress to decide on actions in response to pressing and often controversial global conservation and sustainable-development challenges.
IUCN’s 1,300 members include “some of the most influential government and civil society organizations from more than 160 countries, giving the decisions taken at the IUCN Congress a powerful mandate.”
The congress’ resolutions and recommendations on key conservation issues influence organizations and governments worldwide.
All 85 motions set forth at the 2016 congress have been adopted. Initiatives relating to the oceans include plans to increase marine protected areas, tackle the problem of marine litter and protect marine and coastal environments from mining waste.
A draft version of “The Hawaii Commitments,” a series of broad challenges and solutions emerging from the conference, may be seen here.
Congress participants will break on Thursday for excursions throughout the Hawaiian Islands before returning for final business on Friday and Saturday morning. Closing ceremonies and a reception are slated for Saturday at the Hawaii Convention Center.
Photo: Nazir Amin
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