The Ocean is one of the most important parts of the Earth. It is the largest body of water on our planet and has a large impact on weather, climate, food supply, and many other aspects of life. It is also one of the most mysterious parts of our world. It has been estimated that over 80 percent of the surface of the ocean has never been mapped or studied.
The ocean is made up of over 97 percent of the Earth’s surface water. It is a huge reservoir of water and plays an important role in the global climate and carbon cycle.
It is a living ecosystem with a variety of organisms, from the massive marine mammals like whales to the tiny krill that form the bottom of the food chain. It is also a vital source of energy and food for humans and other animals.
Despite its vast size and influence, the ocean is very finite and has limits that we are learning more about everyday. It is essential that we continue to learn more about these limits so we can conserve and manage the ocean for future generations.
The Ocean divides into several different zones based on the physical and biological characteristics of the water. These are called thermoclines (temperature), haloclines (salinity), chemoclines (chemistry) and pycnoclines (density).
Temperature is very important in oceanography as it helps determine where the boundaries between water on the surface of the ocean and deep water lie. A zone with a dramatic temperature gradient is called a thermocline. This boundary is usually deeper in the tropical oceans and warmer than water at higher latitudes. The water at these temperatures moves in and out of the deeper layers as part of a global thermohaline circulation.
Another way to categorize the regions of the ocean is based on their distance from land. These include the near-shore (neritic) zone, which is made up of mudflats, seagrass meadows, mangroves, rocky intertidal systems, salt marshes and coral reefs.
A third group of regions is based on their depth. These include the pelagic (open) zone, the photic (litter) zone, and the bathyal, abyssal and hadalpelagic zones.
The photic zone contains water up to 1% of the sunlight, and is where plants and microscopic algae (free-floating phytoplankton) can use light to produce organic matter. Photosynthesis is the basis for most of the oxygen on Earth.
It is critical for the human population to understand how we are affecting the ocean, as it is our only resource of freshwater and essential for the survival of all species on Earth. Science is important for this because it enables us to assess the limits of our activities and helps protect them.
The United Nations has recognized that ocean research, conservation and management are important to meet humanity’s needs and challenges. It has established the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development to promote research and policies that help sustainably use our planet’s ocean resources. It has a long history of engaging the public and indigenous and traditional communities in the research process and in policy development. This has helped to break down silos and create better communication between scientists, diplomats and local people. It is crucial for this process to be democratized and inclusive of all interests.