15 Jul 2020 - TIME - "As we restart the economy, this is the chance to reset our goals for a healthy ocean [...] We have a very narrow window of opportunity where we can actually still be effective. Twenty years from now, it will be too late,” says Carlos M. Duarte, a Spanish marine biologist at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia.
15 Jul 2020 - TIME - For Mick Baron, the giant kelp forests of Tasmania were a playground, a school and a church. The former marine biologist runs a scuba-diving center on the Australian island’s east coast, and rhapsodizes about the wonders of the seaweed’s dense habitats. “Diving in kelp is one of the most amazing underwater experiences you can have,” the 65-year-old says, likening it to flying through the canopy of a terrestrial rain forest. “You won’t find a single empty patch in a kelp forest … From the sponge gardens on the seafloor all the way up to the leaves on the surface, it’s packed with life.”
Or rather, it was. In late 2015, a marine heat wave hit eastern Australia, wiping out a third of the Great Barrier Reef, and the kelp forests Baron had been exploring for most of his life. “We were diving in a nice thick forest in December,” says Baron. “By end of March, it looked like an asphalt driveway.”
Recurring heat waves have prevented kelp and coral from recovering; marine temperatures on Australia’s east coast are on average 2°C higher than a century ago, an increase scientists attribute to rising greenhouse-gas emissions. “The ocean is deceptively fragile,” says Baron. “Two degrees doesn’t sound like much, but not many species can handle that kind of temperature change.”
Baron, a gregarious, bearded and perennially sunburned Australian, introduced generations of divers to Tasmania’s kelp cathedrals. His own grandchildren, he says, will have to learn about them from his YouTube videos. Nearly 95% of eastern Tasmania’s kelp forests are gone, a preview of what is to come for the ocean as a whole. “Tasmania’s kelp forests are the poster child for what climate change means for our oceans,” he says. “What is happening here is what will happen everywhere else in a decade or two.”
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