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Ocean waters are becoming warmer and more acidic, broadly affecting ocean circulation, chemistry, ecosystems, and marine life.
More acidic waters inhibit the formation of shells, skeletons, and coral reefs. Warmer waters harm coral reefs and alter the distribution, abundance, and productivity of many marine species. The rising temperature and changing chemistry of ocean water combine with other stresses, such as overfishing and coastal and marine pollution, to alter marine-based food production and harm fishing communities.
As a nation, we depend on the oceans for seafood, recreation and tourism, cultural heritage, transportation of goods, and, increasingly, energy and other critical resources. The U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone extends 200 nautical miles seaward from the coasts, spanning an area about 1.7 times the land area of the continental United States. This vast region is host to a rich diversity of marine plants and animals and a wide range of ecosystems, from tropical coral reefs to Arctic waters covered with sea ice.
Oceans support vibrant economies and coastal communities with numerous businesses and jobs. More than 160 million people live in the coastal watershed counties of the United States, and population in this zone is expected to grow in the future. The oceans help regulate climate, absorb carbon dioxide, and strongly influence weather patterns far into the continental interior. Ocean issues touch all of us in both direct and indirect ways.
Changing climate conditions are already affecting these valuable marine ecosystems and the array of resources and services we derive from the sea. Some climate trends, such as rising seawater temperatures and ocean acidification, are common across much of the coastal areas and open ocean worldwide. The biological responses to climate change often vary from region to region, depending on the different combinations of species, habitats, and other attributes of local systems.
Melillo, Jerry M., Terese (T.C.) Richmond, and Gary W. Yohe, Eds., 2014:
Highlights of Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment.
U.S. Global Change Research Program, pp. 58–59, Print.