The Persian Gulf set to lose 12% of marine biodiversity in 2100 due to climate Woes

    17 Jun 2021

    Climate change may bring more bad news to the Persian Gulf, as the last few years’ numbers state that current projections look at a loss of 12 % of the region’s total marine biodiversity if no measures are taken against the ecological threat. This may seem a challenging endeavor given the political, social, and cultural tensions currently present in the region.

    The dreadful statistics were courtesy of researchers from the University of Western Australia and the University of British Columbia, according to Levantine Group. Its scientists said if the Persian Gulf nations continue their “business as usual” approach to climate change, then the species richness of areas in states such as the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia by 2100. Areas in Iran and Kuwait may be able to provide cooler waters and much more comfortable environments for the marine wildlife, but not to the extent of complete safety.

    Colette Wabnitz of the UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries said changes in the climate in regions in the Persian Gulf might make most of its southern regions unsuitable for its species. The land-surrounded northern Gulf may provide shelter for these species, should they find time to migrate northward.

    Wabnitz, also the head author of the study, and her team were able to identify these critical zones through a method known as “environmental niche modeling.” This allowed them to identify the “preferences” of 55 marine species when it comes to their environment – taking factors such as salinity increase and water increase into consideration. Much of these were determined from a fisheries and ecological perspective thanks to local stakeholders. The study also allowed them to identify just how much of a change fisheries would have to do in order to catch fish and other sources of marine-based food should the worst happen.

    While only 55 species were only looked into, the researchers said this is likely to affect the other thousands that were unobserved as well – given that they are observing for general changes due to climate change.

    From this method, it’s been identified in 2018 that the UAE might lose as much as 45 % of its catch potential by 2100 and no measures are done to combat the ecological threats of climate change.

    Myriam Khalfalla, a UBC Ph.D. student, said that UAE losing its catch potential may not have a major economic impact as the UAE isn’t banking on its fisheries for income – it actually only comprises around 0.08% of its GDP. The nation that might be affected is Bahrain, as while the 2100 change may have it lose as much as 9% of its catch potential, Bahrain is heavily reliant of its fisheries for employment and food.

    William Cheung at UBC’s Institute of the Oceans and Fisheries said tackling climate change from the Persian Gulf needs a two-fold solution, one short-term and one long-term. Cheung, also the study’s lead investigator, said the Persian Gulf may want to reduce human pressures on its seas such as habitat destruction, pollution, and overfishing in order to allow the local marine wildlife to slowly adapt and adjust to climate change. In the long-term, the Persian Gulf nations should work on managing greenhouse gas emissions, as it’s the safest way to reduce the risks of marine wildlife dying in the first place.

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