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A fulmar in the Arctic Ocean, these birds follow ships for hundreds of miles.
Soaring on air currents produced by the ships they glide from port to starboard and back,
sometimes dipping to the seas surface to recover food in the ship's wake.
Never before have the Earth's resources been put under so much pressure. One of the main issues is that of the human population and aspirations to 'improve' and grow. Generally, the western world uses far greater resources per-capita. The problems that Earth faces are complex, not just a question of population but also a combination of population, life-style and industrial growth. It was once suggested that we would never over-fish global stocks, we still empty rubbish into the oceans as if they are bottomless; our actions have adverse effects. We don't fully understand marine ecosystem interactions; our concept of, "out of sight, out of mind" and profit over environmental issues, prevails.
Orca with a White Sided Dolphin, one of the 'residents' in the Johnson Strait of Canada's west coast. The residents are fish eaters; over-fishing and the growth of salmon farms are having an adverse effect.
The Box Theory
The 'Box Theory': Putting it simply, we live in a 'box' or rather a sphere; nothing can come in or go out. Now that the human population has exceeded seven billion, the earth is literally bulging at the seams. Commercial resources are under great pressure and the question of what to do with the waste has not been thoroughly thought through.
We are now starting to see the effect on our oceans, nowhere free from plastics, nowhere safe from exploitation or pollution. Unbridled growth has a cost, from climate change to biodiversity loss. Conditions are changing, species are threatened, anthropogenic activities are causing major unbalance to Earth systems.
Walrus, one of the Arctic's iconic mammals. These mammals have evolved to deal with the freezing waters, oddly enough they need ice in order to haul-out, warm and rest, especially the young. Arctic ice is becoming thinner and covering less sea area year on year, making existence for these animals harder.
Science has long been aware that Earth's oceans have a huge effect on the climate, but it has only been more recently that we have seen advances in marine science and the major implications that our actions have not only on the climate, but seawater acidity, marine ecosystems and the food-web.
The Rio 'Earth' Summit in 1992 raised issues about Climate Change and more than 150 countries signed up to its accords. At last, governments, except now the US under Trump, are starting to take it seriously. Will it be enough, will it be in time to actually make a difference or will governments slip back and renege on their commitments?
During the Earth Summit, Biodiversity Loss was also part of the agenda, also signed up to by the 150 or so countries however, biodiversity appears to have taken a back-seat on the world scene but in the marine environment, where we still don't fully understand the effects of food-web interactions, this lack of action may just come back to haunt us!
The Global problem with plastic has been highlighted for years but few have taken it seriously, until now it seems. BBC's Blue Planet II was 2017 best-watched program with more than 14 million people watching. The plastic problem was highlighted with graphic scenes. As a result, the public is better informed and many are concerned for the future. The UK government purportedly raised the bar by addressing the issue; a 'World Leader' they stated but giving a 25-year time scale is hardly taking the matter sincerely, we need to act and act now.
Ghost Fishing: This discarded fishing net was photographed high up in the Arctic Circle, north of 80 Degrees!
Close to the ice pack, this fishing net may have been covered, uncovered, and covered, again and again by annual ice cycles. It may have circled the Arctic, even the Atlantic by ocean gyres for many years.
Ghost fishing kills indiscriminately.
A Polar Bear or 'Ice Bear' as they are often called. Pictured of the east coast of Greenland.
Ice loss is causing a major problem for the Arctic. Some of the loss is due to climatic change, but the input of fresh water from melts is accelerating sea water change, reducing sea water density, reducing the deep water movement.
The greatest and fastest changes can be observed in the polar regions, they act like a Global thermometer, and we now know that it is these regions that are vital to the Global ocean conveyor. Cold dense seawater sinks in the Arctic, this is the 'kick-start', a slowing here has the ability to alter climatic patterns. The Gulf Stream could slow affecting the whole North Atlantic and wider.
We have learnt the importance of El Nino and La Nina events in the Pacific and just how disruptive these ocean current changes are to terrestrial weather, which in turn effects us big time.
Warming Seas - Warm Seas
It is not just the polar regions that are under threat; coral reefs, atolls and low lying islands are in dire straits.
Warming seas bring their own problems from sea level rise from thermal expansion to more extreme climatic events, warmer air carries more water; larger temperature extremes are the root cause of tropical storms, which often are not limited to the tropics.
Warm seas are not exempt from the effects, a minor alteration in coral growing regions is sufficient to cause 'bleaching', long term bleaching is causing mass die-offs around the world. Ocean acidification causes corals to dissolve further disrupting this unique habitat.
Changes in species diversity has unknown effects on trophic levels.
Whole islands, island communities and huge areas of densely populated land are at risk of becoming submerged.
Regions of oligotrophic waters rely on differing systems to support life, coral reefs are one such ecosystem which is under threat.
Coral bleaching, where the coral polyps expel the algae component causes major disruption and can cause the death of the entire reef.
Problems from fishing of the top predators causes untold and often unknown turmoil to food webs. Ocean acidification bleaches corals, one of the globes greatest habitats in nutrient deficient waters.
In fact many of the world's major cities lie close to sea level and are at threat from rising tides and storm surges.
NB. All photographic stills are copyright © of Mark-MC.
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