Climate change affects creatures around the world. But land animals may have a slight advantage over marine species in running from the ill effects of global warming: the ability to escape.
The oceans absorb the majority of the excess heat. Because they distribute the heat widely, ocean temperature gains are subtle. But, even a small change in ocean temperature can have a profound impact on how marine species respond. For example, as an ocean warms, it loses oxygen, threatening the survival of species that require oxygen from the water.
North Carolina has somewhere between 100,000 and 130,000 acres of seagrass in addition to other submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) species. Fish depend on the rich estuarine habitat that flourishes along the North Carolina coast — an ecosystem that relies heavily on a meadow of grass covered by 12 inches of salt water where land and sea merge. The threat of climate change to those seemingly mundane patches — which are seldom above water — is a threat to the entire oceanic ecosystem.
A report by Duke University and N.C. State University measured the economic losses of losing submerged aquatic vegetation. The report estimated that a 5% loss of SAV over a decade would cost the state $8.7 million, and a 50% loss of SAV over a decade could cost $88.8 million.