A new map shows the world"s oceans in serious decline.© Getty Images
Researchers unveiled the first detailed map of human impacts on the world’s oceans last week, and the news is not good. A team of 20 acclaimed marine scientists from around the world collaborated on the project, finding that humans are having a major impact on marine ecosystems, leaving only four percent of the world’s oceans unaffected by human activities.
"In the past, many studies have shown the impact of individual activities," said lead scientist Benjamin Halpern of California’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis. "But here for the first time we have produced a global map of all of these different activities layered on top of each other so that we can get this big picture of the overall impact that humans are having rather than just single impacts."
Scientists from the U.S., Canada and the UK worked together building a complex model to handle large amounts of data on 17 different human threats to marine ecosystems. They divided the world’s oceans in small squares and took a close look at data on how humans are influencing marine environments. In creating the final map, they calculated "human impact scores" for each location and put the numbers on the world map accordingly.
"I think the big surprise from all of this was seeing the complete coverage of human impacts," said Mark Spalding, a Nature Conservancy marine scientist who worked on the map project.
"There’s nowhere really that escaped. It’s quite a shocking map to see," said Spalding, adding that climate change and over-fishing remain the two biggest threats to restoring the world’s oceans.
"There’s an element of wake-up call when you get maps like this," said Spalding. "I think that it is a real signal to roll up our sleeves and start managing our coasts and oceans."