Ocean Action Hub

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Our Oceans Are Becoming More Acidic – What it Means for Marine Life and What YOU Can Do

21 July 2017 - Oceans cover 70 percent of the earth’s surface and account for 97 percent of

21 July 2017 - Oceans cover 70 percent of the earth’s surface and account for 97 percent of its water. They play a vital role in the natural carbon cycle and provides a home for over one million species of plants and animals, with another estimated nine million living in the depths left unexplored by humans. Billions of people rely on the ocean’s rich diversity of resources for survival, and its picturesque beauty provides a calming refuge and source of recreation for people around the world.

Plastic trash and other forms of pollution have turned the once pristine waters into a toxin-filled soup, but that’s not the only threat our oceans and marine life are facing. The earth’s levels of carbon dioxide, which the ocean absorbs from the atmosphere as part of the natural carbon cycle, have increased significantly. The excess carbon is lowering the pH levels of the oceans, causing acidification that is killing off coral reefs and threatening fish and other marine life.

Why It’s Happening

Carbon dioxide occurs naturally in the atmosphere, but the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas has caused levels to skyrocket. According to data from the United Stated Environmental Protection Agency, carbon emissions “have increased by about 90 percent, with emissions from fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes contributing about 78 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions increase from 1970 to 2011.” In addition to these sources, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that livestock production is responsible for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, while other organizations like the Worldwatch Institute have estimated it could be as much as 51 percent. In 2015, carbon dioxide was responsible for 82 percent of U.S. greenhouse emissions. Globally, it was responsible for 65 percent of greenhouse emissions in 2010.

The ocean is currently absorbing an estimated 22 million tons of carbon dioxide each day — and approximately 550 billion tons over the last 200 years — which has resulted in the water becoming 30 percent more acidic than it was before the industrial revolution. The rapidly changing pH levels are threatening the survival of species that add diversity to the ecosystem and serve as a food source for other marine life.

How Acidification is Affecting Fish and Marine Life

When the pH levels of the ocean are altered, it affects several types of marine life, including coral, shellfish, plankton, and fish. Coral reefs, which are already in danger, rely on calcium carbonate to build their rock-hard structures. Acidification of the ocean bleaches coral by killing the algae in its tissue, thus making the skeletal structure less sturdy and more susceptible to damage that can kill the coral and cause it to erode.

Coral reefs are more than just beautiful structures for us to explore on a snorkeling expedition, they’re diverse ecosystems that provide a home to around 4,000 species of fish and millions of organisms, providing them shelter and protection from predators. Coral also acts as a protective barrier that helps prevent land erosion and flooding along shorelines.

Shellfish, sea urchins, and plankton also rely on calcium carbonate, which they extract from the water to build their skeletons and shells. The acidification of the oceans makes these species highly vulnerable by preventing young shellfish from developing shells and causing the shells of mature shellfish to disintegrate. Without these protective shells, they are unable to survive.

Dwindling numbers of shellfish have a direct impact on other marine species who rely on them for food, causing a chain reaction that eventually affects birds and large mammals. Without a sufficient amount of food to support an ecosystem, all species will suffer and eventually, cease to exist. A significant amount of damage has already been done, and with the ocean’s acidity expected to increase by up to 150 percent by the end of the century, it’s important to take immediate steps to prevent further damage.

What You Can Do

Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are threatening our oceans and warming the atmosphere, resulting in changes to the climate that are placing all of us at risk.  Human actions are directly responsible for most of this destruction, but we can help prevent further damage by making a few changes to our lifestyle:

  • You can effectively halve your carbon footprint by choosing plant-based foods over meat and dairy, check out One Green Planet’s #EatForThePlanet campaign to learn more. 
  • Cars are a major source of pollution, not only from emissions but because of the gas and oil they require. Try using public transportation a few times a week, or walk or use your bike for a bit of extra exercise and fresh air.
  • Reduce your energy usage by purchasing energy-efficient appliances, turning off lights when you’re not in the room, and unplugging electronics when they’re not in use. It’s a small thing that can make a big difference!

Share this article and encourage others to learn more about how their daily choices impact the oceans.

CONTINUE READING: http://www.onegreenplanet.org/environment/what-acidic-oceans-mean-for-ma...

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You will be Inspired by these Incredible Activists Working to Save Our Oceans! - One Green Planet

21 Feb 2017 - Meet the dedicated people standing up for the ocean's future – campaigning, raising awareness and encouraging others to save our marine environments.

21 February 2017 - Life as we know it could not be sustained without the Earth’s oceans. They cover approximately 70 percent of our planet’s total surface area, produce 70 percent of the oxygen we breathe, and absorb approximately 30 percent of the greenhouse gasses we generate. In this way, they help to regulate the temperature, rainfall, and climatic conditions of our planet as a whole. Marine habitats host an unquantifiable amount of wild animals, birds, fish and crustaceous species. These habitats include both sandy and stony beaches, coastal rock features, the open sea, and coral reef systems, right up to the deepest ocean trenches where no light can be found, to name just a few! All of these species, in turn, play a pivotal role in managing the particular oceanic ecosystem to which they are adapted.

However, the continued health and stability of the oceans are being seriously threatened by the way we humans have treated them in recent decades. One of the most pressing issues of concern is the human-generated phenomenon of climate change. Since the later years of the eighteenth century (when the Industrial Revolution began), planetary emissions of greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide have steadily risen. Thanks to accelerated industrial activity, the Earth’s average yearly temperature has increased by one degree Fahrenheit since 1950. When the oceans absorb high amounts of greenhouse gases, they gradually become warmer and more acidic (due to the excess carbon dioxide being converted into carbonic acid). This shift in the oceans’ temperature and acid/alkaline balance is helping to fuel the loss of many marine species who cannot adapt to the new conditions. Oceanic acidification is also destroying coral reef systems throughout the world (which serve as a habitat for an incredible 25 percent of the Earth’s marine species).

Marine pollution, overfishing, the illegal poaching of endangered marine animals, and humans’ high usage of plastic have all taken their toll on the Earth’s oceans too. It has been estimated that 8.8 million tons of plastic waste find their way into the oceans every single year, placing the continued existence of over 700 marine species at risk. However, the dedicated people who are standing up for the oceans’ future – campaigning, raising awareness, and encouraging others to play their part in saving marine environments from destruction – offer us a ray of hope. Marine activists all over the world are showing us that we need not despair over the bleak outlook that seems to be facing our planet and its inhabitants. Working collectively, we can make a difference. Here are some incredible campaigners and activists who are doing just that!

Dana Beach

Dana Beach is a long-term campaigner for oceanic conservation. He was moved to quit his job as an investment banker at the age of 28, when he visited South Africa with his wife and the couple had an amazing encounter with a wild gorilla. This convinced Beach that he had to fight to save the Earth’s wildlife, in whatever way he could. He founded South Carolina’s Coastal Conservation League in 1989, and has been on the frontlines of many environmental battles in the state ever since. This has included halting the development of factory farm operations in the state, tackling marine and air pollution, and preventing acres of vital coastal land being destroyed by commercial interests. His work has earned him a huge array of awards over the years, including the Order of Palmetto, South Carolina’s highest honor. The United States Environmental Protection Agency, the South Carolina General Assembly, the American Institute of Architects, and Time Magazine have all acknowledged his efforts too. Beach’s work is driven by his belief that “the health of the oceans, the health of the land and the health of our communities is inextricably intertwined.”

Norlan Pagal

Norlan Pagal has paid a heavy price for his determination to protect the wildlife of Tañon Strait in the Central Philippines from criminal interests. Tañon Strait has been recognized as the Philippines’ largest ocean sanctuary, home to an incredible variety of marine animal species, but criminals carrying illegally caught seafood and marine animals, together with drugs, often operate in this area with little fear of the law. Pagan, who lives in the village of San Remigio close to the strait, observed the devastating effect that these activities were having on the region’s wildlife, and decided to take action. He spent more than ten years leading a local sea ranger patrol in the Strait, apprehending illegal fishers and cleaning up marine pollution in the area. In 2010, he caught an illegal fisherman using dynamite to kill animals. The man threw an explosive device into Pagal’s boat, intending to kill him, but luckily the device did not detonate.

However, on October 24, 2015, Pagal was shot by a hitman. The bullet tore through his spine, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Although he now has to use a wheelchair to get around, Pagal has remained as committed to protecting his community’s waters as he ever was. He constantly asks his daughter to push his wheelchair out to the shore so he can keep watch for any signs of criminal activity in the Strait. Last year, marine conservation organization Oceana acknowledged his courage with an Ocean Heroes Award, with Oceana Philippines vice president Gloria Ramos stating that “Norlan’s life story should be made into a movie to galvanize action from both enforcers and citizens.”  Pagal described the honor as a great surprise, and said, “Oceana recognising me as a hero makes me, my family, my neighbors and my ancestors proud.” He expressed his hope that Tañon Strait will always have “abundant fish, abundant shellfish, and abundant seaweed,” and also said, “I’m not afraid to continue my advocacy. Even if I lose my life, what’s important is that our children will see that it’s not a lost cause.”

Riki Ott

Riki Ott is a marine biologist and toxicologist with extensive experience in raising awareness about the dangers of oil spills. In 1989, Ott was working in Cordova, Alaska, as part of a commercial fishing operation, when she witnessed the devastating Exxon Valdez oil spill in the nearby Prince William Sound. The spill ruined Cordova’s economy, destroyed vast areas of the region’s marine habitats, and caused serious health problems for many local people. She said, “I recall with stark clarity the shock of flying over the tanker wreck on March 24, 1989, and seeing the black inky stain of some 11 to 33 million gallons of oil on the water. I made a personal vow that day to work upstream of oil spills to help our nation transition off fossil fuels.”

CONTINUE READING: http://www.onegreenplanet.org/environment/activists-working-to-save-our-oceans/