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February 14th, 2008
Scientists Complete First Ever Global Mapping of Human Effects on Our Ocean

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PR — Overfishing, pollution, climate change and other human activities are threatening nearly every area of our ocean, and heavily affecting more than 40% of our ocean according to a study co-authored by Dr Dennis Heinemann, Senior Scientist at Ocean Conservancy. The study is being published today in the journal Science. By overlaying maps of various ocean threats researchers were able to produce a composite map of the cumulative threats to our ocean by human activities. The study involved nineteen scientists and was conducted at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) at UC Santa Barbara.

"On a global scale, the study determined that coral reefs and
sea-grass habitats, places important to maintaining the diversity and
productivity of ocean life, are suffering from some of the most
significant cumulative threats from humans," said Dr Heinemann. "We
fear that few areas of the ocean are left without compromised
resilience in the face of the ongoing and increasing threats of
overfishing, pollution and ocean climate change."

Unlike earlier studies that focused on single activities or
single ecosystems in isolation this study synthesized global data on an
array of human impacts on most marine ecosystems. Analyses of the data
found that most of the North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans are
moderately to heavily effected by human impacts. Almost no regions on
the planet have escaped significant impacts — the most heavily
impacted regions are the North Sea, South and East China Seas,
Caribbean Sea, east coast of North America, Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea,
Persian Gulf, Bering Sea, and several regions in the western Pacific as
the most heavily affected areas. Only areas near the poles have largely
escaped; however, climate change is expected to significantly increase
threats to the Arctic ecosystem.

 "The ocean is an engine that drives our planet’s climate. It
provides oxygen we breathe and protein much of the world consumes, and,
while we all understand that the ocean is essential for life, this
study gives us the first overall look at how it is being affected by
the cumulative activities of humans. The study reinforces the need for
managers and decision-makers to shift away from an activity-by-activity
mentality towards true ecosystem-based decision-making on a broad-scale
that matches the scales of many ecosystems and human impacts,"
continued Heinemann.

 The authors acknowledge that continued research and ongoing
monitoring must be done; however these findings establish a first
baseline and should help inform and assist decision-makers in
evaluating where activities can continue with little effect on the
oceans, and where other activities might need to be stopped or moved to
less sensitive areas. Marine protected areas and ecosystem-based ocean
management, strong tools that help to manage multiple human activities
in our ocean and to restore and preserve resiliency, will be improved
by the perspective gained through this study and the refinements that
will surely follow.

 To access the study visit: http://www.nceas.ucsb.edu/GlobalMarine

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