Take a deep breath. Now take another deep breath. The oxygen you inhaled for your second breath came from the ocean. The ocean is a gift to all of us as it provides 70% of the world’s oxygen according to National Geographic. Specifically, phytoplankton, tiny organisms found at the water’s surface, are responsible for producing much of the air we breathe. As you can see, the health of the ocean directly affects us and, unfortunately, the ocean is under the weather.
Our planet is warming, with 2015 officially the hottest year ever recorded. A warming planet leads to a warming ocean, which leads to many harmful and life threatening affects. These affects include, coral bleaching or ‘whitening’ of coral, rising ocean temperatures, and ocean acidification. The ocean has already lost around 40% of its coral reefs. Coral reefs are vitally important for the ocean ecosystem, supporting a quarter of all marine life. Loss of coral reefs affects the ocean’s food chain and the food supply for many nations who depend on the fishing industry.
Researchers have also found that the ocean is absorbing over 90% of heat energy generated by manmade greenhouse gas emissions. This accelerates the warming of the waters and warm water holds less oxygen.
As more carbon dioxide is spewed into the atmosphere, the ocean is becoming more acidic. The increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is being absorbed by the ocean and converted into carbonic acid, creating a highly acidic ocean. This increase in acidity is threatening the ocean, especially shellfish. Studies have shown that the shells of tiny snails are dissolving because of the amount of acid in the water.
Although the future may look grim and the issues seem too manage, we can and must be a part of the solution. Our everyday actions greatly impact our planet and the ocean. From the food we eat to the amount we drive. It is important to share information about solutions with family, friends, co-workers, on social media, and as far and wide as you can. If you are already using reusable water bottles, bags, and utensils, take it to the next level - drive less, eat less meat, get involved in your local community and with politics.
When Mother Nature is sick, it is our duty to nurse her back to health. As Cindy Zipf, Executive Director of Clean Ocean Action, once said, “What’s not to love about the ocean? It’s resilient. If you give the ocean a chance to heal, it can come back. That’s a powerful message for all of us.’’