Researchers from the University of Plymouth have collaborated on a new study which for the first time shows the full extent of human development in oceans.
An international team of scientists has demonstrated that an area totalling approximately 30,000 square kilometres – the equivalent of 0.008 percent of the ocean – has been modified by human construction.
Proportion-wise, they say it is comparable to the extent of urbanised land, and greater than the global area of some natural marine habitats, such as mangrove forests and seagrass beds.
When calculated as the area modified inclusive of flow-on effects to surrounding areas, for example, due to changes in water flow and pollution, the footprint is actually two million square kilometres, or over 0.5 percent of the ocean.
The modifications include areas affected by tunnels and bridges; infrastructure for energy extraction (for example, oil and gas rigs, wind farms); shipping (ports and marinas); aquaculture infrastructure; and artificial reefs.
The research was published in Nature Sustainability and led by Dr Ana Bugnot, from the University of Sydney School of Life and Environmental Sciences, and the Sydney Institute of Marine Science.
The authors include Associate Professor of Marine Ecology Dr Emma Sheehan, who contributed her experience of monitoring Blue Industry installations, such as marine renewables and offshore aquaculture.