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The world's oceans are one of the central pillars responsible for balancing much of the global climate, as well as being the habitat for countless species of marine life. However, the deep blue seas have come under enormous stress as a result of human activity, such as overfishing and pollution. Now, a new review published in Nature provides hope, and a plan of action, that our oceans can be restored in 30 years.
According to the researchers, the oceans have suffered worrying damage due to human activity, in particular plastic pollution, climate change and increasing acidification. This has continued without interruption, despite the fact that conserving the oceans and using them sustainably is one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
But the study authors also highlight the impressive and often surprising resilience of marine ecosystems: “Regional examples of impressive resilience include the rebound of fish populations during WWI and WWII after a marked reduction in pressure from the fisheries, the recovery since 1958 of the coral reefs in the Marshall Islands from megatons of nuclear tests and the improvement of the health of the Black Sea and the Adriatic Sea after a sudden reduction in the application of fertilizers after the collapse of the Soviet Union ".
While these recovery stories are not the result of environmental protection measures, they show how effective ecosystems are at reestablishing themselves when given the time and space to do so. The results could be even better if ecosystems were actively supported in the form of conservation actions.
"Our study documents the recovery of marine populations, habitats and ecosystems after past conservation interventions," said Carlos Duarte, lead author of the review. "Provides specific, evidence-based recommendations for scaling proven solutions globally."
To that end, the authors note the importance of coral and oyster reefs, salt marshes, mangroves and seagrasses, seaweed, fisheries, and megafauna in assisting ocean recovery, and recommend protective measures.
The cost of sustained policy implementation in this regard is estimated to be $ 10-20 billion per year through 2050. A gigantic sum, but one that researchers predict will be met with considerable returns: “The economic return on this The commitment will be considerable, around US $ 10 for every US $ 1 invested and more than a million new jobs ”, not counting the positive returns of ecotourism to protected areas.
However, to reap these benefits, the international community must act quickly, and although several projects are being designed to mitigate environmental damage and pollution, the window of opportunity to turn the ship is narrow. "We are at a point where we can choose between a legacy of a resilient and vibrant ocean or an irreversibly disturbed ocean, for generations to follow."