The world's oceans and Earth's marine life can be saved by 2050, scientists say, but substantial reconstruction efforts will be needed.
An international team of researchers says that humanity is at a point where it must choose to leave future generations in a resilient and vibrant ocean or in an irreversibly disturbed ocean.
The team's study presents the essential roadmap of the actions necessary for the recovery of marine life on the planet in 30 years.
This is based on the spectacular recovery of the humpback whale, which was brought to the brink of extinction in the 1960s, but recovered in 2015, thanks to conservation efforts.
Protecting species, restoring habitats, reducing pollution and mitigating the worst of climate change by reducing global emissions of greenhouse gases are important tasks to come, conclude the researchers.
Success also depends on the support of a committed partnership of global governments and a substantial commitment of financial resources, they warn.
He estimates that it will cost between $ 10 billion and $ 20 billion a year in restoration projects, but for every dollar invested, the expected return would be $ 10.
A giant humpback whale on the east coast of Australia. Humpbacks dwindled in the 1960s to just a few hundred in the wild, but recent conservation efforts have led to numbers of more than 25,000
"We have a narrow window of opportunity to deliver a healthy ocean to our grandchildren's generation, and we have the knowledge and the tools to do so," said study co-leader Professor Carlos Duarte of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology ( KAUST) in Saudi Arabia.
"Not accepting this challenge and, in doing so, condemning our grandchildren to a broken ocean that is unable to sustain high quality livelihoods, is not an option."
The study, published in the journal Nature, establishes the essential actions necessary for the recovery of marine life on the planet by 2050.
It documents the recovery of marine populations, habitats and ecosystems after previous conservation interventions and provides evidence-based recommendations on possible solutions.
In studying the impact of previously successful ocean conservation interventions and recovery trends, the researchers identified nine essential components for the reconstruction of marine life
Although humans have greatly altered marine life to the detriment of the past, the researchers found evidence of the remarkable resilience of marine life.
The study found that 47% of 124 marine mammal populations increased, 40% increased and 13% decreased.
They observed marked losses of lives throughout the 20th century, slowing down and, in some cases, even recovering, in the first two decades of the 21st century.
This includes particularly spectacular cases of recovery, such as the humpback whale, which was brought to extinction in the 1960s, with only a few hundred surviving in the wild as a result of commercial whaling.
However, conservation efforts and the introduction of the Endangered Species Law have caused the humpback population to recover almost completely by 2015, to more than 25,000.
The study authors estimate that the recovery of marine life can be accelerated to achieve a substantial recovery within two to three decades for most components of marine ecosystems.
The researchers identified nine essential components for the reconstruction of marine life – salt pans, mangroves, seagrass, coral reefs, algae, oyster reefs, fishing, megafauna and deep sea.
An international study led by KAUST professors presents the essential roadmap of actions necessary for the planet's marine life to recover in abundance by 2050
They also outlined six “recovery actions” to protect and rebuild the nine components – harvest wisely, protect spaces, restore habitats, reduce pollution and mitigate climate change.
"The reconstruction of marine life represents a major feasible challenge for humanity, an ethical obligation and an intelligent economic objective to achieve a sustainable future", said Professor Susana Agusti, from KAUST.
Actions Recommended actions include opportunities, benefits, possible obstacles and corrective actions, providing a tangible roadmap for offering a healthy ocean that would bring enormous benefits to people and the planet.
"If all recovery wedges are activated at scale, the timeframes for recovering previously damaged marine life show that the abundance of marine life can be recovered within a human generation, or two to three decades, by 2050."
However, the impact of climate change already limits the possibility of rebuilding tropical corals only for partial recovery.
The Great Barrier Reef is facing the most extensive coral bleaching event & # 39; and potentially devastating after recent unusually hot ocean temperatures. Climate change has already limited the possibility of rebuilding tropical corals, says study
In general, the goal of rebuilding the abundance of marine life can only be successful if the Paris Agreement's most ambitious goals are achieved.
Success depends in large part on the support of a committed and resilient global partnership of governments and societies aligned with the goal.
It will also require a & # 39; substantial commitment of financial resources & # 39 ;, but it will be worth it as the ecological, economic and social gains from the reconstruction of marine life will be far reaching.
The study brought together the world's leading marine scientists, working on four continents, in ten countries from 16 universities, including York University.
WHAT IS THE PARIS CONTRACT?
The Paris Agreement, which was signed for the first time in 2015, is an international agreement to control and limit climate change.
He hopes to keep the global average temperature rise below 2 ° C (3.6 ° F) & # 39; and seek efforts to limit the temperature rise to 1.5 ° C (2.7 ° F) & # 39 ;.
It appears that the more ambitious goal of restricting global warming to 1.5 ° C (2.7 ° F) may be more important than ever, according to previous research, which claims that 25% of the world could see a significant increase in the driest conditions.
In June 2017, President Trump announced his intention for the U.S., the world's second largest producer of greenhouse gases, to withdraw from the deal.
The Paris Agreement on Climate Change has four main objectives with regard to reducing emissions:
1) A long-term goal of keeping the global average temperature rise well below 2 ° C above pre-industrial levels
2) Aim to limit the increase to 1.5 ° C, as this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change
3) Governments agreed on the need to peak global emissions as quickly as possible, recognizing that it will take more time for developing countries.
4) Make quick reductions from then on, according to the best science available