Ecosystem collapse

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Jeremy Jackson, senior scientist emeritus of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, published a landmark paper in 2001, “Historical Overfishing and the Recent Collapse of Coastal Ecosystems,” in which he made the case that some environments that we perceive as relatively pristine have, in fact, been radically altered by centuries of human exploitation.

Jackson, in a recent article, believes that the following steps, if taken immediately, could reverse the demise of the oceans:

Establish marine reserves

Enforce fishing regulations

Implement aquaculture

Remove subsidies on fertilizer use

Muster human ingenuity to limit fossil fuel consumption

Buy time by establishing local conservation measures.

Jackson has been on the lecture circuit since 2001. “Our amnesia about what is natural is the greatest threat to the environment,” said Jackson, in the youTube version of his talk “The State of the Ocean,” delivered at Middlebury College, in Vermont, in 2007.

In this article, “Ecological Extinciton and Evolution in the Brave New Ocean,” Jackson reviews a series of studies that bolster initial observations that exploitation and pollution of estuaries and coastal seas, coral reef ecosystems, continental margins and the open ocean continue unabated.

Dead Zones

He predicts that overfishing will lead to extinction of edible species and have an indirect effect on other levels of the food chain. Larger dead zones and toxic algal blooms may merge along the coastal zones of all of the continents. Disease outbreaks will increase. Vertical mixing of ocean waters may be inhibited resulting in disrupted nutrient cycles.

“Some may say that it is irresponsible to make such predictions pending further detailed study to be sure of every point. However, we will never be certain about every detail, and it would be irresponsible to remain silent in the face of what we already know.”

Lack of political will and the greed of special interests

Despite Jackson’s bleak prognosis for a “brave new ocean,” he clearly identifies “lack of political will and the greed of special interests” as standing in the way of establishing sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, “Simply enforcing the standards of the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service would result in major improvements in U.S. waters within a decade.”

“We have to begin somewhere,” says Jackson-who will continue to stir the pot.

Source: Wildlife Extra