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15 emerging issues that will affect marine life –



The list of 15 emerging problems identified and prepared by an international team of scientists, including two CONICET researchers, includes the possible impact of forest fires on the oceans and that of new biodegradable materials. It also mentions the extraction of sodium from the seabed.

That climate change, pollution and the overexploitation of resources are causing profound changes in marine biodiversity and coastal habitats is well known. But there are other emerging issues that are not yet widely recognized that could have a similar impact, although if necessary measures are taken in time, their effects can be avoided or mitigated.

With this challenge in mind, a group of 30 scientists, policymakers and practitioners with interdisciplinary experience in marine and coastal systems set out to identify issues that could affect – for better or worse – the conservation of these areas in the next 5 to 10 years. . . They did this through so-called “horizon scanning”, a research method that seeks to detect the first signs of certain problems in order to make predictions.

The study, published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, was led by James E. Herbert-Read and Ann Thornton, both from the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge, England. But it was also signed by two Argentine scientists: biological oceanographer Irene Schloss, from the Austral Center for Scientific Research (CADIC), who reports to CONICET and is based in Ushuaia; and oceanographer Alberto Piola, a CONICET researcher at the Franco-Argentine Institute for Climate and Impact Studies (IFAECI). The work is intended to be a wake-up call for authorities and other decision-makers.

Experts from various disciplines from 11 countries participated and each brought emerging issues in marine sciences into consideration by the group. In total, 75 were proposed and each participant evaluated them individually and made a classification based on significance and novelty.explained Piola. “The process led to the pre-selection of 32 topics and then, in a virtual meeting, we discussed each one and voted to make the final list with the 15 that the publication presents.”, added the researcher from the Naval Hydrography Service.

Although the points identified are of a “global” nature, Piola admits that some may be more relevant than others for Argentina in the short and medium term. “The study suggests that large-scale fires are a potential source of water-soluble nutrients. The flow of nutrients to the ocean can alter marine ecosystems, promoting the growth of phytoplankton or causing the mortality of other species. This is relevant for Argentina, as its continental shelf is one of the most productive marine ecosystems in the southern hemisphere: it provides ecosystem services, such as capturing atmospheric carbon dioxide and fishing.”.

Another point highlighted by the report has to do with the fact that climate change and changes in land use and other human activities can lead to coastal darkening due to the increase of suspended material in seawater, which alters the penetration of light, essential for the survival of ecosystems. “The Río de la Plata is an important source of terrigenous material in the ocean, including nutrients and suspended sediments. The discharge of water from the river alters the optical properties of the water and the biogeochemical balance of the region hundreds of kilometers from the mouthpointed Piola.

Experts also highlight the potential impact of new biodegradable materials, as they consider that some of them are more toxic to marine species than traditional plastics. “Governments are pushing hard to use biodegradable materials, but we don’t know how they might affect life in the oceans.Herbert-Read warned.

According to the researchers, anticipating future problems helps to think about where changes should be made today. “These exercises serve to identify and increase the visibility of emerging and potentially important issues that must be addressed by scientific research in the short to medium term.Piola reflected. And he concluded: “Advances in the knowledge of these issues are necessary for the development of management tools that allow decision makers and other actors to obtain information and reduce or mitigate the impact on ecosystems.”.

Alberto Piola
CONICET researcher Alberto Piola during one of his works on the high seas. (Photo Credit: Emma Johnston and A. Piola)

The complete list of the 15 emerging issues

in ecosystems

  • Impacts of forest fires
  • coastal darkening
  • Increased toxicity from metal contamination due to ocean acidification.
  • Impoverishment (lack of variety) of equatorial marine communities due to climate migration.
  • Effects of altered nutritional content of fish due to climate change.

resource exploitation

  • The potential market for marine collagen for cosmetic, pharmaceutical and biomedical applications.
  • The expansion of the fish swim bladder trade into the growing luxury dried seafood market.
  • Impact of fishing mesopelagic species (which live between 200 and 1,000 meters deep) on the oceanic biological carbon pump (a process that causes carbon generated in the more superficial areas of the ocean to be transported to the deeper ones).
  • Lithium extraction from deep sea brine sources.

new technologies

  • Co-location of marine activities.
  • floating sea cities
  • Pollution compounded by the transition to green technologies (for example, increased use of batteries for electric cars).
  • New underwater tracking systems to study non-emergence animals.
  • Soft robotics (inspired by biological systems) for marine research.
  • Effects of new biodegradable materials on the marine environment.

You can read more about each of these issues. here




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