oceans losing their cool

Oceans Are Losing Their Cool and their fish

Oceans and their pastures have long kept this planet cool in the same way that forests keep the planet cool!

But once lush blue-green ocean pastures have been turning into clear blue lifeless deserts that no longer keep themselves and us cool.

Major Scientific Report shows 30% of the ocean pastures in the Western Indian ocean have perished in just the past 16 years!

We can, and therefore, we must restore our ocean pastures to historic health and ever so ‘cool’ abundance.

Almost 90% of the extra heat due in global warming due to increased CO2 has been absorbed by the oceans. Of all the tropical oceans, the ocean warming is most prominent in the Indian Ocean, and it is wreaking a deadly toll on the marine ecosystem. In a recent study led by Dr. Roxy Mathew Koll, Scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, and published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, points out a significant decline in the marine phytoplankton in the Indian Ocean. We can help save the oceans from losing their cool!

The authors show that the rapid warming in the Indian Ocean is playing an important role in reducing the phytoplankton up to 20% across the entire Indian Ocean during the past six decades. In the Western Indian Ocean the collapse of ocean pasture primary productivity is 30% in just the past 16 years!

Ocean warming pasture decline

From 1950 to present ocean pasture plant life has been collapsing. It’s a deadly cycle as ocean pastures are one of the most potent planet and ocean cooling allies. Less plankton means more ocean and global warming.

This cataclysmic collapse of the marine phytoplankton is cascading through the food chain, turning this biologically productive region into a clear blue ecological desert. It is destroying the food security in the Indian Ocean rim countries and also the global fisheries market. The same is happening all around the world in all of the world’s oceans.

Life on earth depends on primary production of plant life and its photosynthesis. Marine phytoplankton, which terran-centric politically correct dogma proclaims constitutes half of the global net primary production. In reality ocean pastures contribute more like 90% of global primary productivity. The grass of ocean pastures, it’s phytoplankton, sustains the aquatic food web, drives the marine ecosystem, and defines the health and abundance of the global fisheries catch.

goldilocks zone

Click for your lesson on the Goldilock’s Zone

Losing their cool!

In addition, the ocean pastures  manage their own (and our) climate and global ecosystem and always have.  As they absorb the sun’s rays they find that the sun is just a bit too much for them. Eons ago the oceans evolved the means, aka plankton blooms, to produce abundant cloud nucleating gases and aerosols that produce the majority of the world’s clouds and reflect much of the sun’s blazing rays back into space providing cooling shade for life below. The sunlight that reaches the oceans powers photosynthesis and the growth of ocean pastures and heats the surface ocean. In this twin process the oceans control our climate and biogeochemical cycles, particularly the carbon cycle.

Starving At Sea – Marine Phytoplankton in the Indian Ocean

Of all the world’s tropical oceans, the Indian Ocean (especially the western region) hosts some of the richest ocean pastures, largest concentration of phytoplankton blooms, in summer. One reason is that strong monsoonal winds lead to ocean upwelling, supplying nutrients from the deep water to the surface. This feeds and nourishes the ocean pasture which is seen in high rates of primary productivity, aka plankton. That plankton feeds all of ocean life and fish are at the top of that food chain.

Long ago the English author Walt Whitman noted the connection between pastures and livestock by writing,

“All beef is grass.”

I say with regard to ocean pastures,

“All fish is plankton.”

There can be no debate of the fact that large-scale distribution of tuna and other fishes are associated with the phytoplankton availability and abundance. FAO statistics show that the Indian Ocean accounts for 20% of the total tuna catch, especially the most economically valuable BigEye tuna, making it the 2nd largest supplier to world markets.

Indian Ocean tuna collapse

Available data show that the tuna catch rates in the Indian Ocean have declined by 50-90% during the past five decades. As the ocean pastures ability to sustain large herds/schools of tuna increased industrial fisheries is able to afflict a terrible toll on the remaining highly stressed and reduced tuna populations and is seen as a huge decline.  Decline in the fisheries in this region is destroying domestic fishing industries, economies and societies throughout the developing countries in the region. As the once vital Indian Ocean tuna pastures meet their demise the global fisheries market, especially from countries like Japan, USA and several EU countries is relentlessly increasing its efforts to catch what meager numbers of tuna that remain starving at sea.

Rapid warming in the Indian Ocean

Indian ocean chlorophyll trends

Click to enlarge

Interestingly, the region in the Indian Ocean with the largest phytoplankton concentrations is also the region which exhibits the largest ocean surface warming. The warming during the past century is up to 1.2°C, which is very large compared to a global surface warming of up to 0.8°C during the same period.

The researchers report using data from multiple satellite sensors, and also historical simulations from climate models. The historical simulations indicate that the marine phytoplankton has decreased up to 20% during the past six decades. Meanwhile the recent satellite data show that the decline is up to 30% in the western Indian Ocean during last 16 years.

How does the ocean warming suppress the marine productivity?

Warmer ocean surface temperatures results in less dense water on the surface and the warm water literally floats on the colder denser water below. This is known as stratification, aka layering. The layers don’t mix well!  The vertical mixing is a critical process for introducing nutrients from the deep water into the upper zones where sufficient light is available for photosynthesis.

Future

Ocean pasture models show that without intervention to restore and sustain the ocean pastures their ability to nourish and cool the ocean will continue to collapse. Climate models clearly show that the Indian Ocean will continue to warm. This study ties the further decline in phytoplankton in the Indian Ocean to the more politically popular ‘climate change’ moniker and speaks to the extreme vulnerability of the marine ecosystem.

Reference: Roxy M. K., A. Modi, R. Murutugudde, V. Valsala, S. Panickal, S. Prasanna Kumar, M. Ravichandran, M. Vichi and M. Levy, 2015: A reduction in marine primary productivity driven by rapid warming over the tropical Indian Ocean.Geophys. Res. Lett., 42, doi:10.1002/2015gl066979 [pdf]

Parts of this blog post were derived from press materials provided by the research institute.