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Alexandria Ebel
Mr Padgett
ENGL 102
13 November 2016
The Effects of Climate Change on Aquatic Ecosystems
Global warming is an issue that is supported by some and disputed by others. Whether or
not you believe in considering global warming an issue of the present, the reality of the facts
that support it is irrefutable and it is without a doubt something that we need to stop. It is
predicted that the Earths climate will increase approximately 2-6 Celsius by the end of the
twenty-first century, which would make this the warmest period on Earth for the last 100,000
years. This large-scale warming of the Earth is leading to very extreme and rapid climate
changes (Mitchell 2117). These climate changes are bringing a long list of negative effects and
consequences that will continue to worsen. Of the many ecosystems that are being affected by
the climate change, the aquatic ecosystems are suffering the most damage. Aquatic ecosystems
are extremely important to the biology of the Earth, considering they cover 71% of the Earths
surface. Recent studies have shown how rising greenhouse gases are causing climate changes
that are driving these ecosystems to near extinction (Hoegh- Guldberg, 1523). Many people do
not see how the damage being done to the aquatic ecosystems affects humans; however, these
ecosystems play a major role in supporting our economy. I am arguing that global climate
change is destroying the aquatic ecosystems and the organisms that live there. This is also having
a direct effect on humans and we must take steps to begin to slow down the process of climate
change before it is too late.

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Climate change due to global warming is harming the aquatic ecosystems in many
different ways. The damage ranges from significant alterations in the aquatic biogeochemical
processes to permanently affecting, and possibly ruining, the aquatic food web structure (Wrona
359). The most significant change that is contributing to both of those issues is the damage
being done to coral reefs. There are an estimated 30% of coral reefs that are already severely
damaged and approximately 60% of coral reefs may be damaged beyond repair by the year 2030
(Hughes, 929). Healthy coral reefs help support fisheries, jobs and businesses through tourism,
as well as recreation. Most of the federally managed fisheries directly depend on coral reefs for
the life cycles of the growing fish. The commercial value of fisheries from coral reefs, estimated
by the Marine Fisheries Service, is over $100 million. The coral reefs are also a popular spot for
tourism, which includes diving trips, hotels, recreational fishing trips and local restaurants. The
economies associated with these areas receive billions of dollars from the people that visit
(Kitch).
The major damage being done to coral reefs because of the climate change is called
coral bleaching. Coral bleaching is directly related to elevated temperatures and coral stress.
When coral become stressed and overheated, they release a large amount of their pigment
minerals and become extremely pale or white. If the thermal stress is very severe and prolonged,
the coral will permanently bleach and then die (Hughes, 930). Another thing that adds stress to
the coral is ocean acidification due to the increasing climate. Ocean acidification is caused by
increased uptake of CO2 by the ocean waters. Due to global warming, there is a huge increase in
the amount of CO2 in the air. The ocean takes up approximately 25% of whatever the amount of
CO2 is in the air annually, therefore the ocean will take up more since there will be a larger
amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. The increased uptake of CO2 in the ocean waters lowers the

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pH of the water. The low pH reduces the seawater aragonite saturation state, which leads to
lower calcification rates of the coral. Coral reefs have to be in an environment of a high pH in
order to undergo calcification to survive and produce vital minerals for the organisms that live in
and around the coral. Calcification is what makes the coral strong, so without it they become
extremely weak, causing great stress on the corals. The bleaching is causing significant
increased coral mortality (McLeod, 20). Eventually, all of the coral in the ocean will be
completely gone. It will all become bleached beyond repair and the entire population of this
organism will diminish, if nothing is done to stop this threat.
The diminishing coral population is destroying the aquatic food webs. Coral reefs are
one of the most important aspects of the aquatic food webs. They are home to millions of
species, and also are essential to the survival of millions of others. A few of the millions of
species that rely heavily on coral reefs for survival are lobsters, clams, a variety of fish, sea
turtles and sponges (Nielsen). Imagine the coral mortality increasing so much that the reefs
become very rare, or even extinct. What are those millions of species that rely on the reefs for
survival supposed to do? All of those organisms that rely on the reefs for their survival will
slowly begin dying off. As that happens, the rest of the aquatic food web will start diminishing
as well. Species depend on each other for food, minerals and survival and if the species that they
rely on do not exist any more, they will die off as well. Eventually our aquatic food webs will be
almost nonexistent.
The increasing coral mortality rate is one variable that is causing aquatic species
extinction, but another is the inability of aquatic species to adapt to the increasing ocean water
temperature. The climate change due to global warming is raising the water temperatures of the
oceans. There is a large amount of species that can only survive in the colder temperatures.

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Animal metabolism is also extremely temperature-dependent, as it requires a certain temperature,
depending on the animal, in order to function properly. As the water temperature increases, it
will be much more difficult for metabolism to work at its full potential. Cellular respiration is
also very temperature-dependent, and will not function properly if the temperature is too high. It
can actually harm the cells if the temperature is too high. If these functions do not occur, it will
affect predator-prey interactions because the predators will not have the energy they need in
order to hunt and feed. This will lead to the endangerment of these species, and eventually the
extinction. It will take a much greater period of time for the ocean water to increase significantly
enough to dramatically effect certain species than it will for the water to uptake larger amounts
of CO2. Therefore, coral bleaching is becoming more detrimental to the aquatic ecosystems than
the increase in water temperature, but the increasing water temperature is still a huge factor in
coral bleaching so it is still contributing to damage indirectly. (Traill, 937).
The diminishing coral population and species extinction due to climate change are
destroying the aquatic ecosystems. However, there is going to be an extremely negative impact
on our economy as well . Tourism is a huge part of our economy today. As the coral reefs and
certain species die off, so will the tourism that directly revolves around those things. There will
be no more diving trips to see the beautiful coral reefs or to see the amazing aquatic organisms
that live in and around them. There will also be no more shallow water experiences to interact
with certain species. The restaurants that include or are largely based around aquatic species will
also be affected. If the species are endangered or extinct, the restaurant will not be able to get
them anymore. Therefore, they will have to shut down. There is also an endless amount of jobs
that are based around certain aquatic species that will no longer exist. All of these issues will
dramatically affect our economy in a very negative way, which in turn will affect us.

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There are multiple ways we can begin to slow or even stop the damage that climate
change is doing to these ecosystems, but we have to start now. One way we can begin to save
the aquatic ecosystems is to maintain the natural hydrograph. If there is more water in a system,
there will be more habitat volume for the aquatic species. The greater water concentration will
also make the water less susceptible to the extreme temperature increase. In order to maintain
the natural hydrograph, we need to make sure the water keeps flowing in the direction it is
supposed to flow. Dams and other structures like this impair the natural hydrograph because
they do not allow the constant flow of water. If we removed dams that are not absolutely
necessary, it would be a huge benefit (Adams).
Greenhouse gases are a huge contributor to climate change. So, another way we can stop
climate change is to implement rules or regulations in how much greenhouse gases we release.
One city has already begun to implement changes. Los Angeles has started to use renewable
energy sources as the primary source of their energy. These sources do not produce toxic gases,
so there is nothing being released into the atmosphere that is detrimental.

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This chart represents the increase of the use of renewable energy sources in Los Angeles (DWPdata.gov). Since 2007, Los Angeles has increased their use of renewable energy sources by
almost 20%. That is a huge step in helping to slow down the process of climate change. Another
city that has started helping is San Francisco.

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This chart represents the percent decrease of greenhouse gas emissions in San Francisco (San
Francisco.. data.gov). They have implemented certain rules and regulations that have greatly
diminished the amount of toxic gases they are releasing into the environment. Decreasing the
amount of greenhouse gas being released and implementing the use of non-toxic renewable
energy sources are two major ways we can help to slow down the process of climate change.
Our planet is made up almost completely of water, making the aquatic ecosystems the
most abundant ecosystems on the planet. Aquatic ecosystems are very complex with many
different aspects contributing to their success and survival. Sadly, the climate change due to
global warming is destroying many of these aspects, which will eventually ruin the ecosystems.
This is causing damage to be done to the aquatic ecosystems as a whole. The coral reefs are
dying, which is killing off the species in the bottom of the aquatic food web that rely on the reefs
for survival. Without these bottom-tier species, the species that are higher up are slowly dying
off as well because they have no source of food. When a large amount of all the aquatic species
die off, what is supposed to happen with our tourism and and jobs and restaurants? They will be
nonexistent. This will have a highly negative impact on our economy, which will directly affect
us. At first thought, you would not think that the depletion of the aquatic ecosystems would not
affect us, but it will and it will be harsh. It does not have to happen though! There are ways we
can slow down the process of climate change and save our aquatic ecosystems and our economy.
However, there are not enough people that are aware of the issue of climate change on aquatic
ecosystems. There needs to be more people informed. Global warming is a huge issue of
debate, but the facts showing the damage that is already being done on the aquatic ecosystems is
not. They are real facts about real damage that has already started. We can stop this by getting
more people involved in this issue. The more people that know, the more people that can help.

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Works Cited
Adams, S. B. 2011. Climate Change and Warmwater Aquatic Fauna. (November 2nd, 2011). U.S.
Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Climate Change Resource Center. Web. 19
October 2016.
DWP - Renewables Percentage Annual. Data.gov, Publisher Data.lacity.org, 10 June 2016.
Web. 3 November 2016.
Hoegh-Guldberg, Ove, and John F. Bruno. "The Impact of Climate Change on the World's
Marine Ecosystems." Science 328.5985 (2010): 1523-528. Web. 19 October 2016.
Hughes, T. P., A. H. Baird, D. R. Bellwood, M. Card, S. R. Connolly, C. Folke, R. Grosberg, O.
Hoegh-Guldberg, J. B. C. Jackson, J. Kleypas, J. M. Lough, P. Marshall, M. Nystrm, S.

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R. Palumbi, J. M. Pandolfi, B. Rosen, and J. Roughgarden. "Climate Change, Human
Impacts, and the Resilience of Coral Reefs." Science 301.5635 (2003): 929-33. Web. 19
October 2016.
Kitch, Troy. How Do Coral Reefs Benefit the Economy? US Department of Commerce,
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Commerce, 12 Mar.
2014. Web. 13 November 2016.
Mcleod, Elizabeth, Kenneth RN Anthony, Andreas Andersson, Roger Beeden, Yimnang Golbuu,
Joanie Kleypas, Kristy Kroeker, Derek Manzello, Rod V Salm, Heidi Schuttenberg, and
Jennifer E Smith. "Preparing to Manage Coral Reefs for Ocean Acidification: Lessons
from Coral Bleaching." Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 11.1 (2013): 20-27.
Web. 19 October 2016.
Mitchell, John F. B., Jason Lowe, Richard A. Wood, and Michael Vellinga. "Extreme Events Due
to Human-Induced Climate Change." Philosophical Transactions: Mathematical,
Physical and Engineering Sciences 364.1845 (2006): 2117-133. Web. 19 October 2016.
Nielsen, Kate. What Species Live in and around Coral Reefs? US Department of Commerce,
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Commerce, 12 Mar.
2014.
San Francisco Communitywide Greenhouse Gas Inventory. Data.gov, Publisher
Data.sfgov.org, 25 Aug. 2016. Web. 10 November 2016.
Traill, Lochran W. et al. Mechanisms Driving Change: Altered Species Interactions and
Ecosystem Function through Global Warming. Journal of Animal Ecology, vol. 79, no.
5, 2010, pp. 937947.

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Wrona, Frederick J., Terry D. Prowse, James D. Reist, John E. Hobbie, Lucie M. J. Lvesque,
and Warwick F. Vincent. "Climate Change Effects on Aquatic Biota, Ecosystem Structure
and Function." Ambio 35.7 (2006): 359-69. Web. 19 October 2016.