''This examination of synergistic threats leads to the conclusion that we have underestimated the overall risks and that the whole of marine degradation is greater than the sum of its parts, and that degradation is now happening at a faster rate than predicted,'' they wrote in the report, released on Monday.
''When we added it all up, it was clear that we are in a situation that could lead to major extinctions of organisms in the oceans,'' Chris Reid, a professor of oceanography at the Marine Institute of Plymouth University said by telephone.
The scientists said that studies of the earth's past have indicated that global warming, ocean acidification and hypoxia, or reduced oxygen content in the seas, are three symptoms of a disturbance in the carbon dioxide cycle that have been ''associated with each of the previous five mass extinctions on Earth.''
While speaking in the measured language of science, the report calls for a complete rethinking of humans' relationship with the oceans. ''It is clear that the traditional economic and consumer values that formerly served society well, when coupled with current rates of population increase, are not sustainable,'' it said.