If anything survives, it will be marine life

archive – Diving News

If anything survives, it will be marine life

As the environmental Doomsday clock ticks closer to midnight, scientists still have crumbs of comfort to offer divers.

The latest example, published in the journal Palaeontology, suggests that submarine eco-systems could be the most resilient of all in the face of devastating climate-change.

An international research team led by palaeobiologist Dr Alex Dunhill from Leeds University has analysed fossil records from a mass extinction that occurred in the Late Triassic period, more than 200 million years ago.

This was caused by volcanic eruptions producing greenhouse gases that resulted in global warming, and it was after this cataclysmic event that dinosaurs became the dominant species.

The scientists found that although at least half the species on Earth were killed off, with those species with heavily calcified skeletons the hardest hit, enough diverse life survived under water to keep the eco-systems ticking over.

As a result, marine-life did not change fundamentally from how it had been before the extinction.

The fossil analysis covered some 70 million years between the Middle Triassic and Middle Jurassic periods, before and after the extinction, with ocean-dwellers classified in terms of habitat, mobility and diet.

Although life was maintained in every category studied, tropical coral reefs were particularly badly affected – yet they kept functioning in pockets around the world.

The sting in the tail is that it took some 20 million years for these coral eco-systems to fully recover.

While such a time-frame might provide little comfort for today’s divers, the researchers hope that the research could provide a blueprint of the possible sequence of destructive global events, and offer possible solutions for preventing them through human intervention.

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