It’s not too late to rescue global marine life, according to a study outliningthe steps needed for marine ecosystems to recover from damage by 2050.

University of Queensland scientist Professor Catherine Lovelock said the studyfound many components of marine ecosystems could be rebuilt if we try harderto address the causes of their decline.

“People depend on the oceans and coastal ecosystems as a source of food,livelihoods, carbon capture and, thanks to coral reefs, mangroves and othercoastal ecosystems, for protection from storms,” Professor Lovelock said.

“But people are having enormous impacts globally and it’s time to do what wemust to ensure our oceans are healthy and vibrant for generations to come.”

The research revealed many examples of recovery of marine populations,habitats and ecosystems following conservation interventions.

“Despite humanity having greatly distorted our oceans, recent interventionshave led to a number of remarkable success stories,” Professor Lovelock said.

“The world has come together before to implement moratoriums on whaling,create a Law of the Sea, prevent pollution from ships, and limitindustrialised fishing – all with positive outcomes.

“For the sake of our oceans, let’s go further.

“The main issue we need to tackle is climate change and we can only rebuildthe abundance of the world’s marine if the most ambitious goals within theParis Agreement are reached.”

Professor Lovelock said the benefits of strong action are myriad.

“Conserving coastal wetlands could improve food security for the millions ofpeople who depend on them, and reduce the dangers of storm damage and flooding– saving billions of dollars,” she said.

Image: Sharks and large marine predators haveexperienced significant decline, but evidence shows their stocks can also berebuilt with the appropriate protection measures. Credit: Manu San Felix,National Geographic.

“They provide so many benefits to coastal society that investing to rebuildthem is a no-brainer.”

Professor Carlos Duarte from Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University ofScience and Technology said the goal was not to recreate historicalecosystems.

“That’s no longer possible – rather we should improve on the status quo by re-building stocks of depleted marine populations over coming decades,” ProfessorDuarte said.

“The elephant in the room is climate change, especially for vulnerableecosystems like coral reefs and kelp beds.

“There’s no one silver bullet – we have to address the root causes ofecological collapses.

“It’s not enough to reduce pollution or fishing pressure as the future of theocean also depends on how rapidly greenhouse gas emissions are reduced.”

The research has been published in Nature (DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-2146-7).

Image above: Healthy coral reefs are highly productive and support highbiomasses of top predators. Credit: Manu San Felix, National Geographic.

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