A “substantial” recovery of life in the oceans could be achieved by 2050 if major threats such as climate change are dealt with, a study has said.

The oceans are important sources of food, water and clean energy and key for tackling global warming as they store heat and carbon, but many marine species, habitats and ecosystems have suffered catastrophic declines.

Climate change, which is hitting areas such as the coral reefs, is further undermining the oceans’ productivity and rich wildlife, researchers writing in the journal Nature warn.

But substantially rebuilding marine life, so that populations rebound by 50-90%, within a human generation is largely achievable, if action including tackling climate change and restoring habitats happens at a large scale.

The scientists behind the report point to examples of “impressive resilience” in marine wildlife, such as the recovery of fish stocks during the First and Second World Wars when fishing was reduced.

Deploying conservation measures such as curbing hunting, better management of fisheries, regulating harmful pollutants, creating marine protected areas and restoring habitat such as seagrass, saltmarsh and mangroves have had an impact on life in the oceans.