A new study led by researchers at the University of Washington was published in Nature Climate Change on 17 September, warning that the Gulf of St. Lawrence has lost so much oxygen over the past years because of climate change, that it won’t be able to support marine life in the future.
The study presented by scientists argues that it all started happening since 1960, revealing some of the causes of the oxygen disappearances.
One of the authors of the study and a research associate at the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean (University of Washington), Mariana Claret, stated in an interview with CTV News Channel that climate change more than 50% to blame for this:
“This is very concerning. The effects right now are kind of mild, but in the near future, it can get worse.”
Claret explained that increase of carbon emissions levels caused the Gulf Stream which was already poor in oxygen to go towards north. It weakened the Labrador Current and caused more of the waters of the Gulf Stream enter the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
The Gulf Will Soon Face Hypoxic Conditions
The Gulf of St. Lawrence is already sensitive to climate change, the study explains:
“Our results provide strong evidence that a major, centennial-scale change of the Labrador Current is underway,” adding that open oceans might go through the same situation which involves large-scale currents.
Because warmer water cannot dissolve a high amount of oxygen as cold water does, marine animals struggle to breath faster, and they use up the oxygen left. Unfortunately, the diverse ecosystem found in the Gulf of St. Lawrence will soon face “hypoxic conditions,” meaning that the water cannot support marine life anymore.
According to Claret, there are already populations of marine life – such as the Atlantic wolfish, that struggle to survive in the water, adding that cod, snow crabs and Greenland halibut will be next.
The study aims to learn how to improve the situation locally:
“We know that this going to be bad for fisheries, but we don’t know exactly understand the long-term effects this will have. We need to mitigate these effects locally,” concluded Claret.
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.