Marine species' deaths caused by UVB increases
An international team gathered information from previous studies looking at the effects of ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation on marine life.
Their work shows a close link between UVB levels and death rate, particularly in algae, corals and crustaceans.
The team believe this is the first time the effect of UVB on the health of marine ecosystems has been calculated.
"In our study, mortality is the biological response which showed the greatest sensitivity to UVB radiation," said lead author, Dr Moira Llabres from the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies in Spain, who worked on the paper with the Catholic University of Chile and the University of Western Australia.
The article is published in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography.
"Ultraviolet B radiation has caused a steep increase in deaths among marine animals and plants," said Dr Llabres.
UVB radiation is known to impair photosynthesis, nutrient absorption, growth and reproductive rates in certain species but this is thought to be the first attempt to quantify the damage it does to marine ecosystems.
"The organisms most affected are protists, such as algae, corals, crustaceans and fish larvae and eggs," she said.
"UVB radiation represents a big threat to sea life because it is affecting marine ecosystems from the bottom to the top of the food web."
The attention of many scientists has been focused on the effect of global warming, ocean acidification and eutrophication in recent years but Dr Llabres said that the evidence suggests UVB radiation, which has risen because of damage to the ozone layer, may be an important and overlooked factor behind the decline:
"Krill decreased 60 times in abundance in the Southern Ocean between 1970 and 2003, while UVB radiation increased considerably during this time interval."