The Silent Suffering of Deep-Sea Life

by Natalia Greenidge on March 25, 2014


Climate change and global warming are two highly discussed and extremely important topics that have been in the spotlight for many years. There have been multiple discoveries, observations, suggested fixes and actions taken an attempt to slow the depletion of the ozone layer that is causing global warming. Discussion of global warming due to climate change usually leads to concerns about the Earth’s habitats. The concern lies mainly in colder regions like the North Pole where global warming is causing the ice caps to melt, reducing the habitats of animals such as artic seals, foxes, penguins, and most popular, polar bears. However, while it is good to recognize the effects of climate change on surface animals there is a region people very rarely mention, the deep sea. Recent observations have shown that climate change affects deep-sea ranges and the animals that inhabit them.

In a recent study, scientists from the University of Aberdeen and New Zealand sent camera’s down into the New Hebrides Trench in the South Pacific to make observations about deep sea life in the area. Their cameras were sent below the water surface between the ranges of 2.5 miles to 4 miles in some areas. What they were shocked to see was that there wasn’t as much diversity in the species of fish and other deep-sea dwellers as they expected. However, two of the more abundant animals they saw in the trench were Cusk eels and large red prawns.

Cusk eels and large red prawns live near the ocean floor and can survive on little food supply. This illustrates that global warming affects the food supply of the animals at some of the deepest reaches of the sea. Animals that live near the ocean floor rely on the remains of other animals that have died closer to the ocean’s surface and sink to the ocean’s floor. Since global warming has been destroying many of the ocean habitats closer to the surface, such as cold-water reefs and canyons, it depletes populations of the animals that inhabit those environments as well. As a result there are less dead organisms that sink to the bottom of the ocean to nourish the bottom-feeders leading to less populous and less diverse seafloor environments.

It’s very easy to forget about the things we can’t see until we actually go to explore them. Even though the ocean floor is miles below the surface global warming still affects the bottom-dwellers of this environment by means of a chain reaction that moves up to the ocean’s surface and continues to the atmosphere. It is predicted that over the next century seafloor life across all of the world’s oceans will decrease by up to 5% and by up to 38% in the North Pacific. How do we fix this problem? Easy! Stop global warming so that all ocean environments can benefit. Although millions of people wish that the fix was just that simple, realistically we know it’s not. At this point, stopping the changes happening on the ocean floor isn’t possible as long as global warming continues to increase at the rate it has been. However, if global warming rates decrease and are sustained the ocean floor could possibly begin to look as the scientists of the University of Aberdeen and New Zealand had expected it to look, with several different species and abundant life. Unfortunately for now the deep-sea is considered a “silent victim in the era of changing climate” (Scientists: climate change is killing life at the bottom of the sea 2014).


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