Ocean threats such as pollution and over-exploitation from a rapidly increasing human footprint are impairing the integrity of marine ecosystems. Climate change exacerbates nearly all of these threats and reaches parts of the ocean still relatively untouched from other anthropogenic effects. As a synergistic stressor, climate change-induced physical and chemical changes exacerbate more obvious threats by warming the ocean, worsening hypoxia, rising sea levels, increasing the frequency and severity of storms, and acidifying the ocean. Well-documented threats to kelp forests and coral reefs, two critically important ecosystems that provide a broad range of valuable ecosystem services, are examples of the potentially catastrophic combined effects of climate change with other stressors.
Globally, oceans have absorbed more than 93 percent of heat and over 26 percent of carbon dioxide produced by anthropogenic sources, contributing to rising sea levels, more frequent disease outbreaks, acidification of seawater, increased mortality and decreased productivity of key species, and changes in the geographic distribution of many important fish stocks.
Our historical and current modes of conservation have accrued many benefits for nature. However, these strategies cannot completely stem the tide of environmental threats. As economic growth accelerates in non-OECD countries around the world (which are also often hotspots of biodiversity), and global demand and trade in goods continues to increase, the need to develop tools that can cope with the pace of this growth also increases.
Current tools are not sufficient to address environmental threats, and no one sector can address the multi-faceted nature of this challenge in isolation.
This section of the Horizon Scan is arranged by principal threat to the ocean and a description of the most salient genomic or biotech application suitable for addressing facets of the threat.