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Climate Change Could Damage Oceans for Millennia

A study has found that it might take thousands of years for the ocean to recover from climate change. Researchers studied more than 5,400 fossils from a 30-foot-long core sample taken from the Pacific Ocean floor near Santa Barbara, California, and found that it can take millennia for ocean ecosystems to recover after periods of deoxygenation and warming waters. The study was published on Monday in the journal PNAS. It warned that current climate change could affect the ocean in similar ways for future generations. "In this study, we used the past to forecast the future," Peter Roopnarine, curator of invertebrate zoology and geology at the California Academy of Sciences and co-author of the study, said in a statement. "We don't want to hear that ecosystems need thousands of years to recover from disruption, but it's critical that we understand the global need to combat modern climate impacts."

The study looked at the state of the ocean between 3,400 and 16,100 years ago. When the ocean warms, the water near the sea floor can become depleted of oxygen. In periods with oxygen levels that were lower than average, the study found, invertebrate fossils were almost "non-existent" and the ocean sometimes took millennia to reach normal levels of biodiversity.

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— Keith Wagstaff