According to NASA, 2016 was the hottest year on record around the globe, and while climate change has been a concern of environmentalists and scientists for decades, lately it’s been getting more attention than ever. But climate change is about more than having an unusually warm winter or an early spring. Those rising temperatures have an impact on our entire planet and its inhabitants, both on land and in our oceans.
Oceans cover 71 percent of our planet’s surface, proving a home to 300,000 known species and about one million unknown species of plants and animals. These vast bodies of water also help absorb carbon dioxide from our atmosphere and regulate the earth’s temperature. The ocean plays a vital role in the survival of our planet, but the damaging effects of a warming planet is causing changes that put the health of our oceans — and countless species — at risk.
Rising Ocean Temperatures Are Harming Delicate Ecosystems
The heating of the atmosphere has directly impacted the ocean, which has absorbed an estimated 90 percent of the planet’s greenhouse gas-related heating, according to a report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The sea surface temperature has been rising approximately 0.13 degrees Fahrenheit every decade, with temperatures being higher over the past three decades. It might sound small, but these changes are affecting everything from the presence of microbes to the migration and breeding patterns of marine animals.
The carbon dioxide absorbed by the ocean is causing acidification at a rate 30 times faster than what would happen without human interference, altering the pH balance and affecting calcium carbonate levels. Ocean acidification harms coral, plankton, shellfish and other species that use calcium carbonate to help form their shells and skeletons. Plankton and shellfish play an important role in the ocean’s food chain, so when one species suffers, all suffer.
Rising sea temperatures and an increase in carbon dioxide levels are also a threat to coral reefs, which declined by 16 percent in just one year, according to the National Wildlife Federation. Changes in temperature can result in coral bleaching, which happens when it expels the algae that gives coral its color and serves as an energy source. And while bleached coral can…