Researchers are claiming that the ocean is running out of oxygen, and fast.
According to a new study conducted by the Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel in Germany, which tracks ocean oxygen levels around the world, the precious gas is becoming a commodity down under as it's getting more difficult to come by.
“We were surprised by the intensity of the changes we saw, how rapidly oxygen is going down in the ocean and how large the effects on marine ecosystems are,” oceanographer Andreas Oschlies of the aforementioned explains via Scientificamerican.com.
He also claims that levels in tropical regions have gone down by 40 percent in the last 50 years while they have dropped less significantly elsewhere with an average dip of two percent globally.
The trend is linked to climate change so warmer oceans are suffering from greater losses.
The research team also found that all types of ocean life respond to even slight changes in oxygen levels by seeking refuge in zones where the oxygen is higher or by making behavioral changes.
This, in turn, makes them vulnerable as it can prompt exposure to new predators or force them into parts of the ocean where food is scarce.
Sea creatures have a difficult time dealing with climate change as it is but Oschlies says that deoxygenation is the biggest problem they're facing today. "They all have to breathe," he rightly points out.
According to Oschlies, there are two reasons warming oceans lose oxygen. Similarly to carbonated beverages losing their fizz when placed in the sun, it's hard for the ocean to maintain high levels of oxygen when it warms up as gases escape warm or hot liquids a lot easier.
Secondly, when polar ice melts, it forms a layer of buoyant water at the surface, over the cooler and more saline waters. The water at the top forms a lid that can keep currents from mixing surface water with the water below. And as all oxygen enters water from the surface, it's harder to find high levels at depth.
The research center is trying to raise awareness and they're also hoping that international governments will take measures to combat deoxygenation. But that in itself seems to be quite the task.