The color changes reflect significant shifts in essential marine ecosystems.
The ocean’s color has changed significantly over the last 20 years, and the global trend is likely a consequence of human-induced climate change, report scientists at MIT, the National Oceanography Center in the U.K., and elsewhere.
In a study appearing today in Nature, the team writes that they have detected changes in ocean color over the past two decades that cannot be explained by natural, year-to-year variability alone. These color shifts, though subtle to the human eye, have occurred over 56 percent of the world’s oceans — an expanse that is larger than the total land area on Earth.
In particular, the researchers found that tropical ocean regions near the equator have become steadily greener over time. The shift in ocean color indicates that ecosystems within the surface ocean must also be changing, as the color of the ocean is a literal reflection of the organisms and materials in its waters.
At this point, the researchers cannot say how exactly marine ecosystems are changing to reflect the shifting color. But they are pretty sure of one thing: Human-induced climate change is likely the driver.
“I’ve been running simulations that have been telling me for years that these changes in ocean color are going to happen,” says study co-author Stephanie Dutkiewicz, senior research scientist in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences and the Center for Global Change Science. “To actually see it happening for real is not surprising, but frightening. And these changes are consistent with man-induced changes to our climate.”
“This gives additional evidence of how human activities are affecting life on Earth over a huge spatial extent,” adds lead author B. B. Cael PhD ’19 of the National Oceanography Center in Southampton, U.K. “It’s another way that humans are affecting the biosphere.”
The study’s co-authors also include Stephanie Henson of the National Oceanography Center, Kelsey Bisson at Oregon State University, and Emmanuel Boss of the University of Maine.
Read moare at : news.mit.edu;