Even though the ocean covers almost 71% of our earth, little of our attention goes to it. With us humans being terrestrial beings, often oceans and the role the oceans play in our lives goes unnoticed. Did you know that without the ocean we humans would have little chances of survival? Let us see the various ways the ocean is the heart of the planet.
1. Source of Oxygen
Without oxygen, we know there would be no life. A common misconception is that forests are the primary source of oxygen for the planet. However, this is not true. Forests are responsible for only 28% of the oxygen on earth. The major source of oxygen for our planet earth is our oceans which provide 70% of the oxygen on earth. A microscopic plant known as phytoplankton is the major producer of oxygen. They function the same way trees do on land that is they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Since they are microscopic they go unnoticed but without them, we wouldn’t have a viable planet with a rich source of oxygen to sustain life on earth.
2. Climate Regulator
The ocean is like the earth’s personal climate controller. Currents are formed when the ocean absorbs the heat and transports warm water from the equator to the poles and cold water from the poles to the tropics. These currents are extremely crucial to maintain the weather conditions in various parts of the world, without which these regions would be uninhabitable. The oceans are also major carbon sinks where they absorb Co2 and help in keeping the climate of our planet in check.
3. Supports High Biodiversity
The ocean is home to approximately more than 3,00,000 species. The oceans are so vast and diverse that they support extremely rich biodiversity with many species still remaining unknown. These diverse ecosystems are extremely crucial for the functioning of a healthy ocean on which various processes and livelihoods depend.
It’s not only the ocean creatures that depend on the ocean for survival. More than 60% of the world’s population lives on the coastline who depends on a healthy ocean for their income generation as well as an important food source. Aquaculture, Renewable Energy, Mineral Resources, Biotechnology, Fisheries, Shipbuilding and Ship Repair, Offshore Oil and Gas, and Transport are some of the jobs that people are involved with the ocean for. Another important livelihood dependent on the ocean is trade. 90% of the world trade is made by sea. So, not only for the countless animals in the ocean but for the survival of many humans too the oceans play a crucial role.
Threats being faced by our Ocean
Even though we saw how extremely important oceans are, they are majorly threatened by several human actions. Some of the threats include:
Fish is a major source of food for large populations. However, with the introduction of new technology and increasing demand, overfishing has become a major issue. Almost a third of global fish stocks are overfished. Many fish species which were abundantly found earlier have been overfished to such an extent that they have become endangered. Various species that are protected are also illegally fished and sold for food as well as illegal wildlife pet trade. Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing can cost the global economy up to $23 billion annually. Unsustainable fishing practices are adding major stress to the functioning of oceans. Being aware of where our fish is being sourced from and supporting sustainable fisheries rather than big commercial companies can help reduce this pressure on our oceans.
Several types of pollution are damaging the oceans. Various industries dump their toxic waste into the water bodies which end up in the oceans. The agricultural industries with the increasing use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers are polluting the water quality. Nearly 80 percent of the world’s wastewater is discharged without treatment. Another major source of pollution is plastic waste. More than five trillion pieces of plastic pollution are afloat in the oceans. Single-use plastic such as straws, plastic bags, cutlery, and food containers which we hardly use for a few minutes, remain in the oceans for hundreds of years. By refusing the use of such single-use plastics and opting for eco-friendly products such as metal straws, cloth bags, bamboo toothbrushes, we can help reduce the plastic waste generated. Another waste such as ghost nets and discarded fishing gear is choking our oceans and killing countless animals each and every day.
3. Climate Change:
Climate change is having a major impact on the functioning of our oceans. The ocean temperatures, promoting acidification, and making it harder for the marine species to breathe. Rising temperatures also cause coral bleaching to occur which is where the once healthy corals which support a variety of other marine species are dying. Loss of suitable habitat for breeding and feeding for various species results in their population declining. We each should focus on reducing our own carbon footprint by making small changes in our daily lifestyle and being more conscious of each one of our carbon footprint generations.
4. Lack of Protection status:
On land, we have a number of protected areas that have proven to be very important in the conservation of various species such as rhinos, elephants, and tigers. Similarly protected areas for oceans are crucial to help protect and maintain the population of marine biodiversity. Protecting their habitat from overexploitation, ship traffic, and pollution to promote a healthy and safe environment for several species to feed and breed is extremely crucial for the survival of these fragile ecosystems. Today, only 2% of our global oceans are included in strongly protected marine parks. Scientists estimate we may need to protect 30% of the oceans to provide properly for the future of ocean wildlife and ocean health. Local, National, and International efforts are required to help set up Marine Protected Areas.
The oceans are the heart of our planet and each one of us directly relies on the oceans for our survival. Becoming aware of the threats and working towards protecting our oceans is crucial for a healthy life and planet.