JAN 27, 2021 8:48 AM PST

How would nuclear war affect fisheries?

New research published in the journal Communications Earth & Environment contemplates a post-apocalyptic world, considering how fish populations would likely respond to a nuclear war. The study, led by scientists from Rutgers, suggests that relying on the oceans for food if land-based farming fails after a nuclear war is not a good bet to make, given that fish catch would likely be significantly decreased in the equatorial Pacific.

"In our computer simulations, we see a 40 percent reduction in phytoplankton (algae) biomass in the equatorial Pacific, which would likely have downstream effects on larger marine organisms that people eat," said lead author Joshua Coupe, a post-doctoral research associate in the Department of Environmental Sciences in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

"Previous research has shown that global cooling following a nuclear war could lead to crop failure on land, and our study shows we probably can't rely on seafood to help feed people, at least in that area of the world," adds Coupe.

Of the simulations that the scientists ran, five focused on scenarios of small wars between India and Pakistan and one simulated a large conflict between the US and Russia. The researchers were particularly interested in how the aftermath of a nuclear conflict, by way of tons of black soon that block sunlight from entering the atmosphere, would affect climate in the equatorial Pacific Ocean.

Their simulations showed that a nuclear conflict would result in a climate event similar to that seen during an El Niño event from the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). ENSO is the largest naturally occurring phenomenon that affects Pacific Ocean circulation and climate worldwide. Every few years ENSO oscillates between warm El Niño and cold La Niña events. In the simulations, the researchers predict the occurrence of an El Niño that would last up to seven years.

In this scenario, say the scientists, a nuclear-induced Niño event would stop the upwelling of deeper, colder, nutrient-rich waters along the equator in the Pacific Ocean. This would severely limit the food available for the foundation of the marine food web (phytoplankton), which would in turn have rippling effects on entire marine ecosystems.  

Photo: Pexels

The authors warn that it is imperative to avoid nuclear conflict if we intend to prevent dramatic food insecurity. "Turning to the sea for food after a nuclear war that dramatically reduces crop production on land seems like it would be a good idea," warns co-author Alan Robock, a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences at Rutgers-New Brunswick. "But that would not be a reliable source of the protein we need, and we must prevent nuclear conflict if we want to safeguard our food and Earth's environment."

Sources: Communications Earth & Environment, Science Daily

About the Author
BA Environmental Studies
Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
AUG 03, 2022
Cardiology
Cardiovascular diseases could see sharp increase in US by 2060
AUG 03, 2022
Cardiovascular diseases could see sharp increase in US by 2060
In a recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, a collaborative research team from the ...
AUG 14, 2022
Earth & The Environment
Even near-term climate change effects could massively impact northernmost forests
AUG 14, 2022
Even near-term climate change effects could massively impact northernmost forests
In a recent study published in Nature, a team of researchers from the University of Minnesota (U-M) conducted a five-yea ...
AUG 17, 2022
Technology
Artificial Intelligence Teaches Microrobots how to Swim
AUG 17, 2022
Artificial Intelligence Teaches Microrobots how to Swim
In a recent study published in Communications Physics, a collaborative team of researchers from Santa Clara University, ...
SEP 16, 2022
Genetics & Genomics
Grad Student Highlights: Shannon Barry (Florida Institute of Technology)
SEP 16, 2022
Grad Student Highlights: Shannon Barry (Florida Institute of Technology)
This interview series is focused on the graduate student experience across all STEM fields that allows them to get their ...
SEP 25, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Researchers Verify New Building Block for Life on Enceladus
SEP 25, 2022
Researchers Verify New Building Block for Life on Enceladus
In a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, an international team of researchers ...
SEP 30, 2022
Health & Medicine
Glyphosate, Now Found in Humans, Can Cause Convulsions in Animals
SEP 30, 2022
Glyphosate, Now Found in Humans, Can Cause Convulsions in Animals
Glyphosate is the chemical in a product called Roundup that kills weeds, especially grasses and broadleaf weeds that com ...
Loading Comments...