Saving the Ocean, Saving Ourselves: What Previous Mass Extinctions Can Reveal About the Next One

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Pincelli Hull
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Awareness of environmental issues is greater than ever, yet meaningful solutions often seem elusive. Topics such as climate change, ozone depletion, and loss of biodiversity, once reserved for academics and experts, now make headlines and spark much public debate. Policymakers and the private sector are under increasing pressure to make environmental issues a high priority. With so many changes occurring rapidly, humans face the challenge of prioritizing our responses. A study of the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) mass extinction, almost 66 million years ago, may help us make decisions today to prepare for and remediate the effects of ecosystem disturbance. By informing us on ecosystem response, it can also enable us to separate novel or comparative drivers in current conditions from those of the past. This study investigates the effect of one mass extinction on the sequestration of carbon in the ocean, in order to test how critical ecosystem functions change in response to massive perturbations to Earth and life. The broader goal helps us consider how to integrate and apply data and knowledge across temporal and spatial scales to create policy.