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Many marine species may go extinct before discovered: Scientists at COP15

  • Published
    9th Dec, 2022
Context

In a policy brief presented at the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) in Montreal, scientists have warned that many marine species may go extinct due to human activity before they are discovered.

About

About the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15):

  • The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the governing body of the Convention and advances implementation of the Convention through the decisions it takes at its periodic meetings.
  • The Fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 15) is held in two phases.
  • Phase one took place virtually, from 11 to 15 October 2021 in Kunming, China.
  • Phase two is an in-person meeting in Montreal, Canada, from 7 to 19 December 2022.

Key Points from the conference:

  • Undescribed Species: More than 90 percent of the marine species still await description.
  • Unique Loss: It will be a unique loss as the unpredictable effects on global ecosystems will be unique due to these yet-to-be-found species.
  • Deep-sea conservation: Without knowledge of these species, effective deep-sea conservation is impossible.
  • Scaly-foot snail (Chrysomallon squamiferum): In 2019, it became the first deep-sea species listed as globally endangered due to the threat of deep-seabed mining.
  • Conservation of deep-sea species: Conservation of deep-sea species found in 'areas beyond national jurisdiction' is challenging.
    • There is not yet an international framework to guide the implementation of conservation measures.
  • Consequences to Humans: A loss of deep-sea biodiversity could bring unpredictable consequences for humans as well.

How many have been described so far?

  • Nearly 28,000 deep-sea animal species have been described and named.
  • An estimated 2.2 million other marine species, including deep-sea, are unknown to science.

Why knowledge about the undescribed species is important?

  • The primary reason for this is that the knowledge of deep-sea species biodiversity is a first step to the effective protection of both the species and the ecosystem processes associated with them.

Deep Sea:

  • The deep sea is defined as 200 to 11,000 metre depth and beyond.
  • It is the world's largest habitat, covering more than half of the earth's surface.
  • About 50% of the surface of the Earth is ocean deeper than 3,000 m.
  • It is essential to global climate regulation by storing carbon dioxide and heat and by maintaining biodiversity.

Characterization of the Deep-Sea Environment

  • Generally, everything below 200 m is considered to be the deep sea.
  • light becomes scarce
  • primary production is restricted

Species Living in such Environment:

  • Biochemical difficulties due to the pressure and low temperatures are compensated by changes in enzyme structures.
    • These pressure-insensitive enzymes are slower.
    • A slower metabolism can create problems when external disturbances, such as those arising from human impact.

Adaptations of Deep-sea Animals

  • Body Color: This is often used by animals everywhere for camouflage and protection from predators.
  • Gigantism: This is the tendency for certain types of animals to become truly enormous in size.
  • Long Lives: Many deep-sea organisms, including gigantic but also many smaller ones, have been found to live for decades or even centuries

Threats:

  • Exposed to pollution
  • Habitat destruction
  • Global warming
  • Ocean acidification
  • Resource Depletion
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