20% of Persian Gulf’s aquatic species to be extinct in 80 years: expert

December 23, 2019 - 18:46

TEHRAN – Studies show that as the current environmental issues continue, by the end of the century, about 20 percent of native species in the Persian Gulf will be extinct and 10 percent of new species that might be invasive will replace them, coordinator of the Regional Organization for the Protection of Marine Environment (ROPME) has stated.

Also, studies suggest that more than 70 percent of the coastal and marine habitats of the Persian Gulf by will not be suitable for the native biodiversity by the next 80 years, IRNA quoted Hassan Mohammadi as saying on Sunday.

The Persian Gulf has its own environmental characteristics, as it is a semi-closed sea, aging 15,000 years, with an average depth of 35 meters, while being high salty with severe heat fluctuations, and an annual evaporation rate of 140 cm, he explained.

Water flow in the Persian Gulf is very slow and is done once in every 5 years, so the pollutants that enter the water basin will have a negative impact on the aquatic species, in the long run, he lamented.

The Persian Gulf has its own environmental characteristics, as it is a semi-closed sea, aging over 15,000 years, with an average depth of 35 meters, while being high salty with severe heat fluctuations, and an annual evaporation rate of 140 cm. He went on to say that oil pollution, extraction, and transportation are among the other environmental issues in the Persian Gulf; out 21 largest oil spill in the world, 7 cases occurred in the Persian Gulf, which is threatening the aquatic ecosystem.

Unsustainable rapid growth based on oil revenues is another problem in the region, he regretted, adding, the United Nations called the Persian Gulf region a compact area a few years ago and ranked first in the world, so all plans must be based on the two objectives of protecting the Persian Gulf and sustainable development of the region, which ROPME has moved toward.

Over a century, the Persian Gulf's environment was victimized of three devastating ecological warfare, accordingly, all budgets and programs were devoted to the evaluation of war injuries and damages, he also regretted.

“Today we are going through three decades of environmental degradation, as a result of which water resources are depleted and desertification occurred in most parts of the country causing water and soil issues,” he noted.

Mesopotamia has dried up today, a place once prosperous, became a major route for heavy winds and dust storms in the region, he said, adding, 9 sand and dust storm hotspots have been identified, the most important of which is Mesopotamia in the Persian Gulf.

Mohammadi also stated that fortunately, the Iranian government has allocated €100 million this year to tackle dust storms, which is a good step, but tackling sand and dust storms requires a comprehensive, long-term national plan to succeed; with several mulching or tree planting projects.

“In addition to the wars, we are witnessing severe environmental degradation in the region and, on the other hand, the damaging coastal areas, drainage, land reclamation, drying wetlands, habitat destruction and construction of megastructures, are also the other factors threatening the Persian Gulf,” he noted.

The megastructures changed the water flow, all of which are counter-development; unfortunately, countries around the Persian Gulf have also suspended environmental standards, he said.

Still, 30 percent of the city's untreated wastewater is discharged into the Persian Gulf, although this is better than the Caspian Sea which is 60 percent, he added.

Persian Gulf communities are consuming more than 7 times the global average of environmental standards and produce 3 times the global standard of waste, Mohammadi noted.

Pointing to the desalination capacity, he stated that desalination capacity in the Persian Gulf is more than 20 million cubic meters per day, increasing by 8 percent annually, so the pollution and heat burden on the Persian Gulf is increasing day by day, desalination capacity is projected to reach 80 million cubic meters per year by 2050.

“There is also a Bushehr nuclear power plant around the Persian Gulf and several power plants are under construction in the surrounding countries, so we also have radioactive contamination,” he lamented.

“Of course, after the war, we rebuilt the areas, complied with environmental standards, legalized all the megastructures and obliged them to conduct environmental assessments while announcing that any pollution in the area is prohibited,” he explained.

ROPME also plans for red tide, aquatic mortality and the invasive species, he highlighted.

The study found that 47 percent of the world's planktonic sites are located in the region, of which 13 are invasive species, which have been planned to overcome, he stated.

The next challenge for the Persian Gulf is biodiversity, there are 2 species of dolphin and whale in the area, in addition to 1,100 species of fish and 5 species of turtle, the Persian Gulf also host to the second largest population of manatees, and 232 seaweed species and 4 million migratory birds annually, but today 240 important species and many habitats are under threat, he said.

“The Persian Gulf shores were once home to sea turtles, but migrated to the surrounding islands due to the uneven development; so it's not clear where these animals should inhabit, sea turtles have lived for 150 million years, so we must work to protect them,” he highlighted.

Mohammadi went on to state that studies show that since 2002, the temperature of the Persian Gulf has risen by one degree, which is three times the global average, once in every 8 to 10 years, there is a thermal change that results in the deaths of aquatic species and coral reefs.

There was not any hurricane in the region while the largest hurricane happened in 2007, causing $100 billion in damage, he stated, noting, there have been 14 super storms in the region since 2007.

“Two months ago, a new model was released that estimated sea-level rise by three times the global scenario by the end of the century, with the model all over southern Iraq, the Kuwaiti islands sink along with the Qatar islands, most of Dubai; and as Abu Dhabi goes underwater, there will be no more mangrove forests.

We are faced with a strange catastrophe, we need to have a comprehensive operational plan to deal with the effects of climate change and to preserve coasts and species.
The model shows that Florida is the first place to go underwater, so the planet is endangered from the pole to the equator,” Mohammadi concluded.

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