Deep Sea Creatures at Risk Due to Climate Change
April 22, 2011 --
Earth Day isn't just about life on land. It's also an opportunity to explore the organisms that inhabit the oceans. The University of Miami's Rosenstiel of Marine and Atmospheric Science hosts an annual photo contest for the best snapshot of life under the sea. More than 600 images were submitted from an international pool of photographers. This shot of two transparent gobies, taken in MarsaAlam, Egypt, claimed the top prize as the best overall photo of the competition. Explore some of the other photos to claim top prizes in the 2011 underwater photography contest in this slide show.
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This pygmy seahorse, Hippocampus bargibanti, may be difficult to spot, given how well it blends into its environment and the fact that these seahorses don't grow any larger than an inch. But this snapshot earned first prize in the contest's "Marco" category.
This vibrantly colored nudibranch (Cratena peregrina) was seen in Tarragona, Catalonia, Spain.
A nudibranch and a mantis shrimp rest on the sea floor of Bali's Seraya Beach in Indonesia.
Cuttlefish are seen mating off in the Oosterschelde estuary near the town of Zeeland, Netherlands. This photo took the top prize in the "Wide-Angle" category.
A stingray is surround by cardinal fish in this photo taken in Mogan in Gran Canaria, Spain.
This brightly colored jellyfish was spotted in Lake Worth Lagoon in Riviera Beach, Fla. The photo took the top prize in the "Fish or Marine Animal Portrait" category.
This web burrfish (Chilomycterus antillarum was spotted in the same location as the jellyfish in the previous slide. If it looks like it's smiling, that's because this photo took home second prize in the portrait category.
This frog catches its own reflection at the surface of a lake in Belgium just as the photographer snaps a picture.
This snapshot of an orange spotted filefish, Oxymonacanthus longirostris, claimed the top prize in the "Student" category. The fish was spotted in the water of YasawasIslands, Fiji.
This whale shark (Rhincodon typus) and its entourage were spotted cruising the depths of Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia.
Climate models are now predicting a "staggering" catastrophe for deep-sea marine life -- a stark warning that even our planet's most remote ecosystems are not immune from the ravages of climate change.
The new study, led by the National Oceanography Centre, used various climate models to predict changes in food supply throughout the world's oceans.
The scientists then looked at the relationship between food supply and biomass. Grimly, the models predict a 38 percent decline in seafloor-dwelling marine life in the North Atlantic, and 5 percent globally, by 2100.
In addition, the models suggest that more than 80 percent of all identified key seafloor habitats -- like cold-water coral reefs, seamounts and canyons -- will suffer losses in total biomass. The scientists also predict that marine organisms will get increasingly smaller.
"There has been some speculation about climate change impacts on the seafloor, but we wanted to try and make numerical projections for these changes and estimate specifically where they would occur," noted lead author Daniel Jones in a statement.
"We were expecting some negative changes around the world, but the extent of changes, particularly in the North Atlantic, were staggering," Jones said. "Globally we are talking about losses of marine life weighing more than every person on the planet put together."
The changes to seafloor life will happen despite their presence, on average, some 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) below the ocean surface. What happens up top will have a dramatic impact on the so-called bottom-feeders lying below.
Deep sea creatures depend on the remains of surface ocean marine life sinking to the bottom. But life at the surface is set to decline, owing to a sharp decrease in the availability of nutrients -- which will be caused by climate impacts like the slowing of global ocean circulation and stratification (the increased separation between water masses).
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