Ancient Records Suggest Future Declines in Tropical Oceans

UConn Today

Animals are disappearing from tropical oceans at alarming rates. Patterns in the fossil record suggest the declines are not purely the fault of human activity, but will worsen nonetheless if we do not limit global warming, an international team of researchers including UConn scientists report in the May 25 issue of PNAS.

The researchers used fossil records to reconstruct global oceanic biodiversity patterns from the last ice age (around 20,000 years ago) and the pre-industrial period before the 1800s. They used these two data sets to build ecological models for projecting what global marine biodiversity might be like seventy years from now in the 2090s.

Foraminifera are a diverse group of tiny animals that float through the oceans. They are  exceptionally well-preserved in marine sediments because they have hard shells. Different species are found in different environments, which allow this group of single-celled organisms to serve as sensors for climate change in the ocean.

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