Shellfish — The New Canaries

Like the proverbial canary in the coal mine which, by responding faster to CO buildup underground than humans, and signaling it by death, we have many living indicators of increasingly dangerous conditions around us.  Shellfish are only the latest.

The oceans are more acidic now than they’ve been at any time in the last 300 million years, conditions that marine scientists warn could lead to a mass extinction of key species.

Scientists from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) published their State of the Oceans report Thursday, a biennial study that surveys how oceans are responding to human impacts. The researchers found the current level of acidification is “unprecedented” and that the overall health of the ocean is declining at a much faster rate than previously thought.

“We are entering an unknown territory of marine ecosystem change, and exposing organisms to intolerable evolutionary pressure,” the report states. “The next mass extinction may have already begun.”

Current conditions in the oceans were similar to those 55 million years ago, known as the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum, that led to wide extinctions. And the current pace of change was much faster and meant greater stresses…

 Press release from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) here, as well as PDFs of the report.


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