Scientists have discovered that one of the world’s largest oceans could face a serious water crisis as water levels drop in the Pacific Ocean.
According to a study published by the journal Science, the Southern Ocean, which is home to about two-thirds of the Earth’s land mass, could lose up to 20 percent of its surface area by 2050, as global warming makes the water more acidic.
“This could be a big deal for many marine ecosystems, and could have profound implications for global water resources,” lead researcher Professor John S. Dvorak said.
Dvorak and his colleagues were able to measure changes in the composition of the ocean using satellite imagery.
Using that information, the researchers were able identify areas where sea levels were dropping in response to warming, and to determine what would happen to them over time.
The team then used computer simulations to predict how these changes would affect ecosystems.
The results showed that areas of low-lying land would lose up an average of about 3 percent of their surface area, while areas of high-lying areas would see their sea levels drop by roughly 5 percent.
But as the study notes, there is no absolute limit to how much water the world will lose.
“We’re talking about hundreds of millions of square kilometers, or a quarter of the globe, that could be lost,” Dvoraks co-author and oceanographer Dr. Thomas W. Soderlund said.
“We have to be careful that we don’t do it too quickly, because it’s not like the oceans are already going to disappear.”
While the loss of surface areas is bad news for many, the team found that the effects are also being felt by many marine creatures.
They found that corals and seabirds have been losing the ability to grow, which could have a significant impact on the global food web.
“These changes will have a tremendous impact on ecosystems and the food chain,” Dvoas said.
The study was conducted by scientists from the U.S., Canada, France, South Africa, Australia, Italy, New Zealand, Japan, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and South Korea.
It was published online by the Journal of the Marine Biological Association.