Life began in oceans and all life continues to depend on a healthy ocean
environment. Oceans are important players in the carbon cycle and are major
determinants of climate and weather patterns. Climate change is raising
ocean temperatures. Rising levels of carbon dioxide are acidifying the oceans
with adverse changes in aquatic ecosystems, threatening, for example, fisheries
an important source of human food. 230,000 known species live in oceans. Two
million marine species are estimated to exist. Oceans contain 97% of Earth's
water covering 71% of Earth's surface.
The energy that is released by destructive hurricanes was stored in ocean
water. This dramatic expression of weather occurs over the oceans. Cyclones are called hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean.
Cyclones form over warm ocean water usually 80 degrees F. and greater than
200 meters deep. With increased global ocean temperature rise, the main feature
of global warming, hurricanes are becoming more frequent, wider and more
ferocious. Heat evaporates water which rises and cools to saturation,
condensing into clouds and rain. A hurricane combines thunderstorms, strong winds, rain, high waves, storm
surges and tornadoes.
Warming of ocean water is having a worldwide negative impact on ocean life.
The world’s largest coral reef which stretches for over 1,400 miles off the
coast of Australia, has been severely affected by rising water temperatures. In
May 2016, researchers found more than a third of corals in central and northern
parts of the reef had been killed and 93 percent of individual reefs had been
affected by coral bleaching, where too warm water causes corals to expel algae
living in their tissue and turn completely white. Corals depend on a symbiotic
relationship with algae-like single cell protozoa, so when these are expelled
the corals stop growing and often die. [i] Coral reefs are
an important habitat for many fish species who die when the coral dies.
Nancy Knowlton wrote an article encouraging an optimistic mandate for ocean
conservations efforts:” Once upon a time, a career as a marine biologist
conjured images of days spent diving amid beautiful sea creatures. These days,
it can often feel like being an undertaker for the oceans. Early in my career, I
witnessed first-hand the depressing side of the job. The coral reefs off the
north coast of Jamaica, where I had spent several magical years as a graduate
student in the mid 1970s, were struck by a category-5 hurricane in 1980. Then
came mysterious ailments that devastated two of the most important coral
species, along with a species of sea urchin that, because of previous
overfishing, had become the last defense against a tide of seaweed that was
choking the struggling coral. Ten years after my first dive in Jamaica, the
reefs I'd studied were all but gone. In 2001, my colleagues and I at the Scripps
Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California, founded
the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation. Core to our program was an
interdisciplinary summer course, which brought together students ranging from
marine biologists to physical oceanographers, economists and anthropologists. We
thought of it as medical school for the ocean. in 2009, my husband Jeremy
Jackson and I began running symposia at academic meetings called 'Beyond the
Obituaries', which were about success stories in ocean conservation. A small
workshop in 2014 led to a Twitter campaign, #Ocean Optimism, which has now
reached more than 76 million Twitter accounts. On the weekend of Earth Day, the
first ever Earth Optimism Summits will take place. In Washington DC, more than
235 scientists and civic leaders from 24 countries will share their success
stories of conservation on land and water. Sister summits and activities are
being held in nine countries around the globe. The goal is to learn from each
other, and change the conservation conversation.” [ii]
[i] Charlotte England . Great Barrier Reef is
not repairing itself New research shows the damage has worsened rather than
begun to repair. The Independent - October 14, 2016
Nancy Knowlton . Doom and gloom won't save the world. The best way to encourage
conservation is to share our success stories, not to write obituaries for the
planet. Nature 544, 271 (20 April 2017)
Among the numerous problems that arise with ocean warming,
the increased in toxic phytoplankton threatens human and animal health.
In the USA, NOAA has undertaken a study
of algae blooms in the ocean. Linking warming to increasing phytoplankton
toxicity. Domoic acid, produced by certain types of marine algae, can accumulate
in shellfish, fish and other marine animals. Consuming enough of the toxin can
be harmful or even fatal. Public health agencies and seafood managers monitor toxin levels and impose harvest closures where necessary to
ensure that seafood remains safe to eat. NOAA is supporting research to help
seafood industry managers stay ahead of harmful algae events that are increasing
in frequency, intensity and scope.” Commercial and recreational shellfish
fisheries along the US West Coast are a multi-million dollar industry," said
NOAA harmful algal bloom program manager Marc Suddleson. "Improving our ability
to accurately predict algal toxin levels in shellfish supports timely and
targeted fishery closures or openings, essential to avoiding economic disruption
and safeguarding public health." In 2015, domoic acid-related closures led to a
decline in value of nearly $100 million for the West Coast Dungeness crab
fishery according to the Fisheries of the U.S. Report 2015.
Another cause of phytoplankton blooms in increased nitrogen
flowing into oceans from the land. Nitrogen in ocean waters fuels the growth of
two toxic phytoplankton species,
Pseudo-nitzschia pseudodelicatissima complex: P. cuspidata and P. fryxelliana
that are harmful to marine life and human health. Auro and Cochland explained that nitrogen entering the ocean -- whether
through natural processes or pollution -- boosts the growth and toxicity of a
group of phytoplankton that can cause the human illness amnesic shellfish
poisoning. Pseudo-nitzschia genus produce domoic acid. When these phytoplankton
grow rapidly into massive blooms, high concentrations of domoic acid put human
health at risk if it accumulates in shellfish. It can also cause death and
illness among marine mammals and seabirds that eat small fish that feed on
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