An international team from the Nippon Foundation-University of British Columbia Nereus program has unveiled the first global model of life in the world’s oceans, allowing scientists and policymakers to predict – and show through 3D visualizations – the state of life in the oceans of the future.
Combining scientific data from three major factors impacting our oceans – climate change, human activity (including fisheries and river run-off) and food web dynamics (fish eating fish) – the Nereus model shows life under the sea from 1960 to 2060. Based on current policies, the model shows a strong decline in the biomass of large fish, while some small fish may actually be increasing.
“This is the first comprehensive attempt to model life in our global oceans, and will require refining,” says UBC Fisheries professor Villy Christensen, “but we can now show the future impact of choices we are making today, and answer the question: what must we do now to leave healthy oceans and fish to future generations?”
The model is capable of analyzing data from four linked global models – Earth System, Ocean Life, Biodiversity Envelope, and Fisheries Management and Governance – to generate 3D scenarios based on different fisheries management choices and policies.
It includes an interactive tool called The Oracle, which responds to questions from the public by presenting different scenarios based on certain choices and courses of action. For example, asking “How will fishing efforts impact future fish stocks?” leads to two scenarios. In one, fishing efforts increase over time and result in dramatic declines in future biomass of large fish. In a second scenario, fishing efforts are gradually reduced, resulting in a slow, gradual recovery.
Christensen recently announced formal partnerships between the Nereus – Predicting the Future Ocean program and five renowned institutions: Duke University, Princeton University, University of Stockholm, Cambridge University, and the United Nations Environment Program’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC).