Mass extinctions in the ocean linked to the movement of the continents

(ORDO NEWS) — Continental drift could wipe out marine life, scientists at the University of California, Riverside have warned.

The study showed that as a result of this process, the deep layers can be left without oxygen, according to The Daily Mail.

The movement of the continents is very slow and, at first glance, does not affect the environment. But when the ocean is filled with living things, even a minor event can cause a mass extinction.

It is known that the water in the ocean follows global currents. Warm streams are on the surface. As they approach the poles, they become colder and denser and sink closer to the bottom, taking oxygen with them.

Rising from the depths, the water carries to the surface the nutrients released from the sunken organic remains. They become food for plankton.

“This cycle is key to sustaining marine life in today’s oceans,” they said.

In a new study, the authors used computer models to calculate how the oceans have changed over the past 540 million years. The results showed that during this time, the ocean circulation periodically stopped, and oxygenated surface water stopped flowing to the depths.

Thus, the entire seabed experienced oxygen starvation for tens of millions of years. It stopped about 440 million years ago.

The model assumed that the level of oxygen in the atmosphere remained stable. Consequently, other processes influenced the state of the ocean.

Scientists came to the conclusion that the reason for the appearance of anoxic zones was the movement of the continents. But it remains unknown what exactly triggered the shift and whether it could happen again.

“Theoretically, an unusually warm summer or rock erosion could trigger a cascade of processes that would wipe out marine life in the deepest parts of the oceans,” said author Professor Andy Ridgewell.

Scientists noted that there are already signs of weakening currents in the North Atlantic. Observations show that the inflow of water to depth decreases. This can be deadly for species that are unable to rise to the surface, including squid, sponges and giant worms.

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