Diversity of native molluscs collapses along the Israel coastline
The Israel coastline area in the eastern Mediterranean Sea has experienced one of the fastest increases in marine seawater temperature in recent years due to global warming, about 3 degrees C increase since the 1980s. Earlier this week, a team of researchers confirmed that the rise in temperature has led to a collapse in diversity of native molluscs along this coastline. The study, which collected and analysed about 62,000 specimens along a 200-km-long coastline, found that approximately 90% of the historically known species of native molluscs in this area have now disappeared.
Pictures of some molluscan species attributed to this region
(courtesy: Israel’s Nature Site)
This is the largest ever regional-scale diversity loss in the marine environment reported to date. While some degree of reconfiguration of ecosystems are not unexpected on a natural course, recent studies, such as this one by the United Nations, has indicated that the current decline in biodiversity is historically unprecedented, with species extinction rates continuing to accelerate across the world.
Not a one-off incident
In the recent years several other examples of significant shifts in ecosystems have come to light. Perhaps one of the most notable ones is the rapid climate-driven shift in western Australian temperate reef regions. These regions have lost their characteristic kelp forests and other associated temperate species, and have now become dominated by seaweeds, invertebrates, corals, and fishes that are “characteristic of subtropical and tropical waters”.
Shift in Western Australian temperate reef communities
(courtesy: Science (vol. 353))
Our own research at ESG Base has indicated that this week’s finding off the Israel coastline carries special significance. The region studied here is one of the warmest in the Mediterranean Sea and in some ways provides a leading indication of the changes that may be expected on a wider scale, as the global temperatures continue to rise in the coming decades. But perhaps one of the most alarming findings is the extent to which diversity loss of native molluscs was experienced here within just a few decades. It is difficult to ascertain whether these species would have adapted to the warmer conditions and survived in these areas if the change in temperature occurred more slowly. In any case, this finding is a reminder of the importance of managing economic activities in ways that can reduce the risk factors that face ecosystems around the world.
What can we do to reduce risks?
In a complex and connected global economy, the conservation of ecosystems and diversity is the collective responsibility of all stakeholders – governments, businesses, consumers, investors. Some important ways in which the risks to the ecosystem can be reduced are:
Reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions: The rapid rise in both marine and terrestrial temperatures due to global warming poses a significant threat to ecosystems and their biodiversity, and activities that mitigate or reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions can help. Economic activities such as power and heat generation, transportation, industrial processes, deforestation and land use change, etc. are major contributors of CO2 emissions to the atmosphere, and major changes to infrastructures are needed to make these activities carbon-neutral and sustainable.
Reduce Pollution: Another important threat to biodiversity is pollution. The discharge of toxic wastes, industrial sludges, and non-biodegradable materials such as plastics pose significant risks of irreversibly changing natural ecosystems, driving vulnerable species toward extinction. Reduction of wastes, and implementation of infrastructures that enable a circular economy are important steps in the positive direction.
Eco-friendly agriculture: Implementing sustainable and efficient agricultural practices can simultaneously provide food security, create livelihood opportunities, maintain soil conditions, prevent soil erosion and water depletion, and avoid encroachment into natural ecosystems.
Responsible fishing: Ecological management of fisheries, implementation of effective quotas, creation of protected areas, monitoring and managing biodiversity in more vulnerable areas are some important steps toward minimising damage to the marine ecosystems.
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About ESG Base
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ESG Base is supported by the Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at London Business School and by Santander UK Universities.