4 reasons why the ocean is important

23 May 2019

The ocean is responsible for almost all life on Earth, and it spans more than 70% of the planet’s surface. But it’s drowning in plastic, and becoming more volatile due to rising global temperatures caused by climate change. Here’s why the ocean is so important.

It produces oxygen

The ocean produces over 70% of the oxygen we breathe. It’s estimated that one type of phytoplankton provides the oxygen for one in every five breaths we take.

Most of it comes from phytoplankton – tiny ocean plants that live near the surface of the ocean, and drift with the tide. They create oxygen as a by-product of photosynthesis, which then ends up in our atmosphere.

It absorbs CO2

The ocean absorbs over 30% of manmade carbon emissions. Between 1994 and 2007, it’s believed to have prevented a whopping 34 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide from entering the Earth’s atmosphere.

The carbon dioxide either dissolves on the surface of the water, or it sinks down and builds up at the bottom of the sea.

While this stops a huge amount of carbon polluting our air, it comes at a huge cost to our sea life, increasing the rate of ocean acidification.

What is ocean acidification?

Ocean acidification is the disruption of the chemical balance of the ocean, which happens when large amounts of carbon dioxide enter the water and cause a spike in acidity levels. This is happening faster than it has in the last 65 million years.

Ocean acidification is a symptom of the wider problem of climate change, and it’s a huge threat to the biodiversity of our seas and the future of our coral reefs.

Marine life can’t adapt to the rapidly changing chemical imbalance of the oceans, and the shells of some animals are already dissolving as a result of high acidity levels in seawater. Some could face total extinction, as the oceans they’ve endured for millennia become completely uninhabitable.

It regulates the earth’s climate

The ocean is responsible for regulating global climate, temperature, and weather patterns. It has the power to affect rainfall, flooding and droughts.

Decades of increasing carbon emissions has made our climate unpredictable, and all that residual heat and energy is building up in our oceans – causing temperatures to rise, and making it incredibly volatile.

If the ocean’s temperature continues to rise, the WWF predicts that we could see more extreme weather events, changing currents, rising sea levels and temperatures, and the melting of ice sheets.

It’s the largest ecosystem on Earth

The ocean is the planet’s life force, housing the Earth’s largest ecosystem and home to countless species of marine wildlife – exactly how many is unknown, because 95% of the ocean still remains unexplored.

But as plastic pollution builds up in our oceans and over fishing devastates species’ biodiversity, this vast ecosystem is at risk of extinction.

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