24 Aug 2015
Mapping Human Impacts on the Ocean
Impacts on the rise...
Ocean acidification, climate change, habitat destruction, over-fishing, pollution…. with a whirlwind of headlines and reports over the last few decades, it is no secret that human pressures on the ocean have led to a serious decline in ocean health globally. As our human population continues to grow and develop in coastal regions (by 2020, it is projected that about 6 billion people will live in coastal areas—60 percent of the world’s population--) increasing demand for ocean resources and consequent pressures from human activities.
While our overall impact on oceans is clear, which pressures cause the most change and what areas are experiencing the highest impact has not been as evident, until recently.
A paper published in Nature Communications, “Spatial
and temporal changes in cumulative human impacts on the world’s ocean” by Ocean
Health Index’s lead scientist, Ben Halpern and 10
co-authors, including six from the Ocean Health Index team at the
University of California, Santa Barbara and two from the team at
Conservation International has calculated and mapped changes in 20
marine ecosystem types over five years caused by 19 anthropogenic
stressors including climate
change, fishing, and ocean and land based stressors.
Identifying the degree to which different regions and ecosystems are affected, where impacts overlap with biodiversity hotspots and which human-caused pressures are most harmful will help managers and policy makers make more strategic decisions for management objectives and overall conservation efforts.
- Almost 66 percent of the ocean showed increases of cumulative impact, mostly in tropical, subtropical and coastal regions. The French Territorial holdings in the Indian Ocean, Tanzania and Seychelles showed the most dramatic average increases.
- National waters currently experiencing highest levels of impacts are Singapore, Jordan, Slovenia and Bosnia. Most impacted coastal eco-regions include the Faroe Islands, Eastern Caribbean, Cape Verde and Azore Islands.
- 13 percent of the ocean experienced decreased impacts,
mostly in the Northeast and Central Pacific and Eastern Atlantic. EEZ’s of
several South Pacific Islands, the Alaskan coast, and several European
countries (Slovenia, Albania, Denmark and Netherlands) showed the greatest
- Increases in climate change stressors (sea surface
temperature anomalies, ultraviolet radiation, ocean acidification) caused the highest increases in cumulative impact.
- Impacts from 4 of 5 types of commercial fishing showed
decreases of 70-80%.
- All land-based stressors increased globally but were mostly
concentrated in coastal areas of only 27 – 52 percent of all EEZ’s.
However, mapping cumulative changes provides an opportunity for improved guidance to prioritize management efforts, show where mitigation is needed most, and also highlight what current management practices are creating positive change.
--See full article
Halpern, B. S., M. Frazier, J. Potapenko, K.S. Casey, K. Koenig, C. Longo, J. S. Lowndes, R. C. Rockwood, E.R. Selig, K. A. Selkoe and S. Walbridge. 2015. Spatial and temporal changes in cumulative human impacts on the world’s ocean. Nature Communications, 6, 7615. http://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms8615