The entire ecosystem gets affected by even the most insignificant of the changes in any of its part! Even if it is a slight change in the food habits or a particular region shutting down or just a minor change in season- the implications are felt across the planet. The aquatic bit of the ecosystem is no different. Any change in the land or the living form affects the water bodies or the creatures living therein.
The fact that human activities have pushed the planet on a path of destruction has been a matter of grave concern for all of us. While some of us may choose to ignore and move on, yet the tremors are felt by one and all, even those who aren’t even remotely responsible for whatever is being done!
Since this blog is about the implications for the Aquatic ecosystem, we will restrict our examples and comments to that alone. So, let us take the example of a coral reef. A change as less as a 2-degree increase in the temperature owing to the increase in carbon dioxide concentration can destroy most coral reefs. This will result in the living reefs changing into seaweed dominated mounds of garbage in the ocean. The result will be several anthropogenic effects and an adverse effect on the global biosphere, the humans being no exception to the repercussions!
Just think of this, the planet is covered with 70% water. Climate change has already started hampering the aquatic ecosystem. Should we wait till this effect reaches the lands and hence us too OR should we become cognizant of the fact and do something about it?
What can be done doesn’t form the scope of this article.
However, in this piece, we will definitely discuss the limits to which the irresponsible human activities have pushed the aquatic ecosystem.
The Impact of Increase in Greenhouse Gases
This particular section can be divided into three heads viz the effect of Reduced total carbonate alkalinity, the increased sea level and increase in the sea temperature. However, for the sake of brevity and ensuring your interest, here is a simple interpretation of the heavy facts!
- Owing to the increase in discharge to the water bodies which eventually leads to significant CO2 discharge, the acidic levels of the water will increase (CO2, reacts to form carbonic acid, just for your reference). This increased acidity is harmful for the aquatic life but acts as a catalyst for phenomenon such as heavy algal bloom which further damage the aquatic ecosystem
- Well, not a lot needs to be explained about the increased sea level and its repercussions! The increase in temperatures due to greenhouse emissions, the rupturing ozone layer and our will to never stop or mitigate the damages has resulted in melting of ice strips and hence raised the sea level! Not sure how to put it diplomatically but the increased floods and cyclones are just a small consequence of this.
- Finally, the increase in sea temperature too. A part of it is what we had discussed in point one as well. Basically, the increase in temperature alters the density of seawater which has a direct impact on the rate and directions of ocean water movement. Any major alteration means either of natural calamities or serious disruption in the aquatic ecosystem
Impact on the Deep sea Biodiversity and fish Population
The deep-sea is essentially the main reservoir for aquatic biodiversity preservation. There are millions of small and large species living at such depths which contribute towards the sustenance of the aquatic ecosystem. However, activities such as pollution, shipping, defence activities and even fishing have started posing a grave threat!
- The bottom trawling has resulted in serious damages to the deep-sea ecosystem in specific and has marred the chances of survival of several bottom-swelling fish species and cold-water corals.
- The same holds true for coastal fisheries too. While the governments are getting aware and hence are developing separate commercial fisheries to meet the demand of the population, yet the coastal fisheries are still very much there! Needless to say that the fish population has been seeing a significant decline for a while now!
- The same applies to the coral reefs too! The tropical and sub-tidal regions which are usually inhabited by the scleractinian corals have seen a major change in the past 20 years. The increase in temperature as a consequence of carbonate alkalinity of seawater has seen a significant decrease in the coral frameworks over time.
Impact on Freshwater Aquatic Ecosystems
The major impact occurs in the form of excess nutrient enrichment, hydrological modification, habitat loss, and spread of invasive species. The changing climate and increased levels of ultraviolet exposure further aggravate these conditions. All of this has resulted in coral bleaching- something that in layman terms means dying out of the corals. This results in disruption of the food chain for the fish which feed on these corals, subsequently affecting the larger aquatic animals as well.
A Few Parting Words!
As you must have seen already that the human needs and demands are stressing out the aquatic ecosystem significantly. It is not surprising how the biodiversity changes across all the possible ecosystems on this planet are driven by the anthropogenic alterations.
While we cannot blame anyone in specific for the outcomes yet, we need to understand that as and when the time comes, all of us will have to face the consequences.
The humans have their own problems to address- the poverty, the hunger, the humanitarian crisis, the availability of a place to live.
However, we need to understand that exploiting one resource for the benefit of others isn’t a sustainable solution. We may kill the fish to feed ourselves today, we may run factories to clothe ourselves, to earn something and then sustain but what when we run out of the raw material?
We need to understand that a sustainable solution lies in living in harmony. It cannot be about the stronger one exploiting because resistances have never been good for the oppressors!
We have already seen how corona impacted us all, locking us in our houses and severely affecting the economically backward strata of society. We need to understand that, we could still contain it and (as of now) have been able to save the elites. That is because most of us are biased humans but when nature will strike back, there will be no exceptions!
And we are pretty sure that none of us on this planet is ready or ever will be ready for such a backlash!