Less sharks = more prey.
More prey = more vegetation being eaten.
Vegetation being eaten = release of carbon.
Sharks are considered a “keystone species”, meaning they are top predators. This also means that they are very important in maintaining balance in marine ecosystems. If too many sharks are removed from the ecosystem, there will be a detrimental and monumental shift in the equilibrium between predators and prey. An over population of prey such as turtles, stingrays and crabs means that vegetation which stores large amounts of carbon called “blue carbon ecosystems” are being eaten in larger quantities. This would cause there to be a large release of carbon, resulting in catastrophic contributions to climate change.
Research conducted by academics from Deakin University, University of Technology, Sydney, and Griffith University found that vegetated coastal habitats store 50% of the carbon buried in all ocean sediments, representing about 25 billion tonnes of carbon.
If just 1% of this vegetation is lost, 460m tonnes of carbon dioxide would be released – the equivalent emissions of 97 million cars
That’s right – the amount of carbon stored in just 1% of underwater vegetation is equivalent to Australia’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.
Featured image: “Eyes on You” By Chris Leidy