Increase in marine heatwaves threatens coastal habitats, report says

Scientists warn prologned elevated sea temperatures could harm species

Zoe Tidman
Thursday 20 January 2022 20:43
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<p>The researchers looked at water temperatures and their impact at Chesapeake Bay in the US</p>

The researchers looked at water temperatures and their impact at Chesapeake Bay in the US

An increase in marine heatwaves could threaten the ecosytems in coastal habitats, according to a new study.

Researchers studied the largest estuary in the US and found these heatwaves had increased both in frequency and intensity.

If these trends persist, the US scientists said this could have dire consequences on the ecosystem of the Chesapeake Bay - potentially causing a decline in fished species, killing bottom-dwelling populations and increase the severity of low oxygen levels in some areas.

Other shallow-water coastal systems around the world could also see the same impacts as the climate crisis warms the planet.

Rising average temperatures are believed to be responsible for marine heatwaves happening more often and with greater intensity.

Scientists found deadly ocean heatwaves that happened in 2016 were made over 50 times more likely by the climate crisis.

The new study - publised in journal Frontiers in Marine Science - found Chesapeake Bay had experienced six to eight marine heatwaves per year in the last decade, compared to only four to five a year before 2010.

Dr Piero Mazzini and Dr Cassia Pianca, the authors from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, said they noticed a “significant upward trends in the frequency and yearly cumulative intensity” of these events.

Dr Mazzini said: “If these trends persist, the Bay will experience heat waves on a monthly basis within the next 50 years, and by the end of the century will reach a semipermanent heatwave state, with extreme temperatures present for more than half the year.”

The researchers warned marine heatwaves “have major detrimental effects to marine ecosystems and the world’s economy”.

In 2020, scientsts suggested they were behind an “unprecedented” spike in the number of whales found entangled in fishing gear in the US.

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