October 19, 2010 / 12:51 PM / 10 years ago

Marine ecosystems at risk from pollution,climate-UN

NAGOYA, Japan, Oct 19 (Reuters) - Marine ecosystems around the world are at risk of substantial deterioration in coming decades as oceans face growing threats from pollution, over-fishing and climate change, a U.N. report showed on Tuesday.

The global U.N. Environment Programme report, based on studies of 18 regions, predicted that productivity would fall in nearly all areas by 2050, with fisheries to be dominated by smaller species towards the bottom of the food chain.

The report was unveiled as envoys from nearly 200 countries gathered for a U.N. meeting in Nagoya, Japan, aimed at protecting and restoring ecosystems such as forests, coral reefs and the oceans that underpin livelihoods and economies.

Surface sea temperatures could rise by 2100 if no steps are taken to address climate change, affecting coral reefs and other marine organisms, the report said.

Another threat was a continued increase in nitrogen levels, which could trigger algal blooms and lead to the poisoning of fish and other marine life.

“Multi-million dollar services, including fisheries, climate-control and ones underpinning industries such as tourism are at risk if impacts on the marine environment continue unchecked and unabated,” Achim Steiner, head of the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP), said in a statement.

“This global report, based on 18 regional reports, underlines that ambition and actions now need to match the scale and the urgency of the challenge.”

Regional reports outlined steps that could be taken for policymakers, with the study for the North West Pacific covering China, Japan, South Korea and Russia calling for more management of ships’ ballast water and regulation of fish stocks.

Ballast water from ships can be harmful to seas by transporting marine invasive species to regions from elsewhere, threatening a rise in extinctions of native marine life, the global report said. (Reporting by Chisa Fujioka; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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