Ocean life - richness and decline

24 Jun 2011

t www.physorg.com/print227957170.html ... a parcel of marine scientists, or rather, a collection of environmentalists, is warning us the world's oceans are at risk of entering a period of extinction as a result of, wait for it - a hit including pollution, acidification, ocean warming, overfishing and deoxygenation. The findings are shocking said an Oxford University chap who happens to be the scientific director of the International Programme on the State of the Oceans (oodles of tax money then). Is this a plea for further funding, we might wonder, as the acidification scare has been debunked months ago and the so called decline in reef corals is also dubious while at the moment the oceans are rapidly cooling - the opposite of what this press release would have us believe. Meanwhile, other scientists can't extract a penny or a dime from the politicians for really useful but unfashionable research projects. Anything environmentalist in nature is grabbing the cream - and the arms and legs of the funds available. 

At the same time all this hype is bandied about www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110622135211.htm has news of a paper published in Nature (June 22nd) that is the culmination of a ten year programme tracking marine predator movements in the Pacific. It has discovered there are two large corridors teeming  with life in the ocean (perhaps the environmentalists have been looking in the wrong corridor, or the door to one of the rooms got shut behind them). These corridors attract predators and they compare the situation with the savannah belt in Africa, rich in herbivores and predator species. They follow a similar seasonal and predictable pattern - much like the crocodiles lying in wait for the herds of Wildebeest in the Serengeti. The research has been described as a census of marine life in the Pacific that has mapped out marine pathways and habitats. One such is the California Current which flows south down the west coast of North America, a trans-ocean migration highway connecting the eastern Pacific with the wester Pacific, running along what is a boundary line between cold sub-Arctic waters and warmer sub tropical waters roughly halfway between Alaska and Hawaii. This is where food is most abundant, driven by blooms of nutrient at the bottom of the food chain. The current represents an area where whales, sharks, seals, sea birds, turtles and fish such as tuna migrate seasonally in order to feed on the rich resources of krill, sardines, anchovies and squid etc. Sea lions live their whole life in the current but tuna swim from Japan to California at certain times in the year. The current also produces coastal upwelling in late spring and during the summer months when colder nutrient rich water rises to near the ocean surface causing phytoplankton blooms (another environmentalist doomsaying, the disappearance of phytoplankton, but it happens it was subsequently found to come and go on a regular and predictable basis). Phytoplankton are one of the most important of the ocean food resources and it is this process of upwelling that triggers it - lending good health to an ocean that has been overfished as far as certain species are concerned. No argument in that scenario - or the human blame.