Aquaman may have had more going for him than he gets credit for. Scientific American reveals the amazing power fish have to reverse global warming:
By assigning a dollar value to carbon stored in ocean ecosystems, two recent scientific reports are attempting to make nations reconsider the true worth of their fishing activities.
The first, a new assessment backed by the Global Ocean Commission, roughly estimates that fish and other aquatic life in the high seas absorb enough carbon dioxide to avert $74 billion to $222 billion in climate damage per year.
A second recently published study found that each year, deep-sea fish swimming off the United Kingdom’s and Ireland’s shores capture and store a quantity of carbon emissions worth €8 million to €14 million on the European carbon market, or up to $20 million.
The first study, led by the University of Southampton in the U.K. and the Marine Institute of Ireland, sheds light on exactly how—and how much—deep-sea fish contribute to the ocean ecosystem’s carbon-capture ability.
Phytoplankton, tiny organisms that make up the base of the ocean food web, absorb billions of tons of carbon dioxide each year. But because phytoplankton live near the ocean’s surface, Trueman explained, much of the greenhouse gas returns to the atmosphere if it isn’t eaten by marine organisms.
Huge populations of fish swim near the surface each night to eat phytoplankton, returning to the ocean’s cooler depths during the day. But these species don’t venture deep enough to lock the carbon within the ocean’s depths for long periods. That’s where ugly-looking, hard-to-study fish species that live thousands of feet below sea level come in.
The Global Ocean Commission report calculates that ocean organisms living in the high seas—waters outside the economic zones of specific nations—absorb 1.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year.