On the UN International Day for Biological Diversity, The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) calls for a greater awareness of the threats to marine biodiversity as without life in the ocean there would be no life on Earth.
The greatest diversity of life on Earth is actually in the sea. Over 70 percent of the Earth is covered by ocean, constituting over 90 percent of the habitable space on the Earth. It is home to the largest animal on the planet and there are more micro-organisms in the sea than there are stars in the universe. The first global census of marine life (which ran from 2000 to 2010) has logged 250,000 species; yet in its final report, the census team suggested that for every species known, there are at least four yet to be discovered.
However the health of our oceans hangs in the balance. Overfishing, degraded habitats, pollution, invasive species and climate change are all causes for concern. Commercial overexploitation of the world’s fish stocks are so severe that it has been estimated that up to 13 percent of global fisheries have ‘collapsed.’ Between 30 and 35 percent of the global extent of critical marine habitats such as seagrasses, mangroves and coral reefs are estimated to have been destroyed; plastic debris causes the deaths of more than a million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals every year; and a recent increase in harmful algal blooms suggests that we have affected the bottom, as well as the top, of marine food chains. The burning of fossil fuels is causing the ocean to become warmer and more acidic, the consequences of which, we are only beginning to grasp.
Marine environments provide us with a whole host of resources and services, from food and medicines to storm protection, and most importantly of all, phytoplankton produce half of all the oxygen in our atmosphere. Supplies of fish as a healthy food source need to be secured for the millions that depend on them without destroying fish stocks and damaging the marine environment in the long term.
CIWEM’s Executive Director, Nick Reeves OBE, says: “Marine issues are a global concern and as they are a common public resource, require concerted management to avoid over exploitation. Whereas approximately 13 percent of the world’s land surface area is protected in reserves, the figure for marine environments is a little over one percent. The Convention on Biological Diversity has established a target of 10 percent of all coastal and marine waters being protected in reserves by 2020. The UK must play its part in upholding its national, EU and international marine conservation commitments to help achieve this.”
- The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) is an independent professional body and a registered charity, advancing the science and practice of water and environmental management for a clean, green and sustainable world www.ciwem.org
- CIWEM’s recently published report ‘From microbes to mountains’ can be found at: http://www.ciwem.org/media/503645/ECOSYSTEMS%20REPORT%20FINAL%20MARCH%202012.pdf
- Further information on the International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) is available from: http://www.cbd.int/idb/2012/
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