How Human Activity Affects Marine Species Over Time

How Human Activity Effects Marine Species Over Time

"It is really hard to know how a species is doing by just looking out from your local coast, or dipping underwater on scuba," says Ben Halpern. "You only see a small patch of where a species lives and what it is experiencing, and only the few species you happen to see on that day." (Credit: Valerie Hukalo/Flickr)

Researchers have created the first global assessment of cumulative human impacts to at-risk marine species over time.

Despite the fact that our planet is mostly ocean and human maritime activity is more intense than ever, we know remarkably little about the state of the ocean’s biodiversity—the variety and balance of species that support healthy and productive ecosystems. And it’s no surprise—marine biodiversity is complex, human impacts are uneven, and species respond differently to different stressors.

“It is really hard to know how a species is doing by just looking out from your local coast, or dipping underwater on scuba,” says Ben Halpern, a marine ecologist at the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara and director of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis. “You only see a small patch of where a species lives and what it is experiencing, and only the few species you happen to see on that day.”

Though valuable, these snapshots are only part of a much larger picture of cumulative human impacts on at-risk marine species. Even less obvious are changes in impact over time and assessments of vulnerability to these impacts, which differs across species.

Now, the new assessment will make the picture of marine biodiversity much clearer. Published in the journal Science, the assessment will broaden and deepen our understanding of the state of marine biodiversity and will go a long way toward concrete conservation measures for the most vulnerable members of the marine community.

Marine species with higher extinction risk

“This is the first study of its kind looking at the effects of human activity on marine species, and the first looking at changes over time,” says Casey O’Hara, a doctoral student in the Bren School. Taking data on 1,271 threatened and near-threatened marine species from the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources’ (IUCN) Red List, the researchers mapped the at-risk species along range and anthropogenic stressors from 2003-2013.

“We focused on those species known to be at a higher risk of extinction because from a conservation perspective, it’s especially important to understand where and how our activities continue to jeopardize those species,” O’Hara says.

“Not every species is affected the same way by various human activities—some species are more sensitive to fishing pressures while others are more vulnerable to rising sea surface temperatures or ocean acidification.”

Mapping over a series of 11 years would also give the researchers a sense of cumulative human impact, a method they first used in a previous study that focused on representative marine habitats.

Where does human activity hit hardest?

It’s not a shock. Human impacts on marine biodiversity are increasing, dominated by fishing, direct human disturbance from land, and ocean acidification. But the authors made some unexpected discoveries.

The extent to which at-risk species face these pressures from human activities, and the pace at which the pressures are expanding and intensifying, is worrisome. Corals are the most widely impacted marine organism on Earth.

“I was surprised at the extent to which corals were impacted—coral species are facing impacts across essentially their entire ranges and those impacts are only getting more intense, particularly climate-related impacts,” O’Hara says.

“We hear stories of coral bleaching and the like, but our results really highlight the impact we are having.” The species of the Coral Triangle—the tropical waters connecting Indonesia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands—are among the most affected by human impacts, as are species in the North Atlantic, North Sea, and Baltic Sea.

The information from this approach could give decision-makers a deeper understanding of where and how human activity affects marine biodiversity, which could lead to effective solutions. For instance, addressing areas of human impact overlap can maximize the benefits of conservation for several species in the area. Effective conservation measures can help ease the pressures of climate change phenomena such as ocean acidification or rising ocean temperatures.

The team might get the chance to put their findings to work later this year, at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s 15th Conference of Parties, where 197 participating nations and territories will convene on a framework to protect and conserve global biodiversity.

“That framework will include targets for protecting land and ocean areas globally, along the lines of President Biden’s executive order to protect 30% of US lands and coastal waters by 2030,” O’Hara says. “With our study we hope to highlight those areas where such protection can do the greatest good for those species and ecosystems at greatest risk.”

Original Study

Related Books

Life After Carbon: The Next Global Transformation of Cities

by Peter Plastrik , John Cleveland
1610918495The future of our cities is not what it used to be. The modern-city model that took hold globally in the twentieth century has outlived its usefulness. It cannot solve the problems it helped to create—especially global warming. Fortunately, a new model for urban development is emerging in cities to aggressively tackle the realities of climate change. It transforms the way cities design and use physical space, generate economic wealth, consume and dispose of resources, exploit and sustain the natural ecosystems, and prepare for the future. Available On Amazon

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

by Elizabeth Kolbert
1250062187Over the last half-billion years, there have been Five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us. In prose that is at once frank, entertaining, and deeply informed, New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert tells us why and how human beings have altered life on the planet in a way no species has before. Interweaving research in half a dozen disciplines, descriptions of the fascinating species that have already been lost, and the history of extinction as a concept, Kolbert provides a moving and comprehensive account of the disappearances occurring before our very eyes. She shows that the sixth extinction is likely to be mankind's most lasting legacy, compelling us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human. Available On Amazon

Climate Wars: The Fight for Survival as the World Overheats

by Gwynne Dyer
1851687181Waves of climate refugees. Dozens of failed states. All-out war. From one of the world’s great geopolitical analysts comes a terrifying glimpse of the strategic realities of the near future, when climate change drives the world’s powers towards the cut-throat politics of survival. Prescient and unflinching, Climate Wars will be one of the most important books of the coming years. Read it and find out what we’re heading for. Available On Amazon

From The Publisher:
Purchases on Amazon go to defray the cost of bringing you,, and at no cost and without advertisers that track your browsing habits. Even if you click on a link but don't buy these selected products, anything else you buy in that same visit on Amazon pays us a small commission. There is no additional cost to you, so please contribute to the effort. You can also use this link to use to Amazon at any time so you can help support our efforts.


 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

You May Also Like


internet company logos
Why Google, Facebook and The Internet are Failing Humanity and Little Critters
by Robert Jennings,
What is increasingly obvious is the dark side that is engulfing the internet and is spreading…
Full moon in the night sky
Horoscope Current Week: October 18 - 24, 2021
by Pam Younghans
This weekly astrological journal is based on planetary influences, and offers perspectives and…
girl wearing a Covid mask outside carrying a backpack
Are You Ready to Take Off Your Mask?
by Alan Cohen
Sadly, the Covid pandemic has been a rough ride for lots of people. At some point, the ride will be…
girl wearing a hat deep in thought
Putting A New Spin On Our Thoughts and Experiences
by Jude Bijou
What goes on in the world, just is the way it is. How we interpret other people, things, and…
illustration of a film strip with various scenic pictures on each frame
Designing a New Future for Yourself
by Carl Greer PhD, PsyD
In the physical world, things have a past and a future, a beginning, and an end. For example, I’m…
teacher standing in front of students in an open classroom
Becoming Passionate About Public Education Again
by Robert Jennings,
We are almost all lucky to have someone in our lives to encourage and motivate us and try to show…
people walking and bicycling through a park
Finding Your Way and Flowing with The Mystery of Life
by Marie T. Russell,
Life. It's something we all have in common, no matter our religion, our race, our gender, our…
Flower growing through a chain-link fence
So Many Questions... So Many Answers?
by Marie T. Russell,
We go through life with so many questions. Some are simple. What day is it? What will I have for…
Cancer Prevention and Sunlight
Health, Cancer Prevention and Sunlight
by Richard Hobday, MSc, PhD
In some respects cancer is to industrialized countries today what tuberculosis was to the 18th and…
Identifying Your Family Myths and Seeking New Beliefs That Can Help Your Relationship
Identifying Your Family Myths and Seeking New Beliefs That Can Help Your Relationship
by James Creighton
Couples fight. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Sometimes these fights provide comic relief. At…
October 2016: Razor-Sharp Truth and Compassionate Grace
October 2016: Razor-Sharp Truth and Compassionate Grace
by Sarah Varcas
The second half of October is characterised by dynamic, forthright energy which requires careful…


How Living On The Coast Is Linked To Poor Health
How Living On The Coast Is Linked To Poor Health
by Jackie Cassell, Professor of Primary Care Epidemiology, Honorary Consultant in Public Health, Brighton and Sussex Medical School
The precarious economies of many traditional seaside towns have declined still further since the…
The Most Common Issues for Earth Angels: Love, Fear, and Trust
The Most Common Issues for Earth Angels: Love, Fear, and Trust
by Sonja Grace
As you experience being an earth angel, you will discover that the path of service is riddled with…
How Can I Know What's Best For Me?
How Can I Know What's Best For Me?
by Barbara Berger
One of the biggest things I've discovered working with clients everyday is how extremely difficult…
What Men’s Roles In 1970s Anti-sexism Campaigns Can Teach Us About Consent
What Men’s Roles In 1970s Anti-sexism Campaigns Can Teach Us About Consent
by Lucy Delap, University of Cambridge
The 1970s anti-sexist men’s movement had an infrastructure of magazines, conferences, men’s centres…
Honesty: The Only Hope for New Relationships
Honesty: The Only Hope for New Relationships
by Susan Campbell, Ph.D.
According to most of the singles I have met in my travels, the typical dating situation is fraught…
Chakra Healing Therapy: Dancing toward the Inner Champion
Chakra Healing Therapy: Dancing toward the Inner Champion
by Glen Park
Flamenco dancing is a delight to watch. A good flamenco dancer exudes an exuberant self-confidence…
Giving Up All Hope Could Be Beneficial For You
Giving Up All Hope Could Be Beneficial For You
by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T.
If you're waiting for a change and frustrated it's not happening, maybe it would be beneficial to…
An Astrologer introduces the Nine Dangers of Astrology
An Astrologer introduces the Nine Dangers of Astrology
by Tracy Marks
Astrology is a powerful art, capable of enhancing our lives by enabling us to understand our own…

follow InnerSelf on

facebook icontwitter iconyoutube iconinstagram iconpintrest iconrss icon

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration



New Attitudes - New Possibilities | | | InnerSelf Market
Copyright ©1985 - 2021 InnerSelf Publications. All Rights Reserved.