Oceans are large bodies of salt water that cover an estimated 70% of Earth’s surface. They are a vital part of our planet’s ecosystem, providing food, minerals, oil, and natural gas. They also help to keep our climate stable by absorbing heat from the Sun and storing energy that can’t be absorbed by the Earth’s land and water.
The ocean is home to many animals and plants. Phytoplankton are one of the most important types of marine life, producing much of the oxygen in our atmosphere. Other marine organisms include fish, whales, octopus, corals, and sea anemones.
Animals of the Ocean
The largest ocean animals are blue whales and dolphins, while the smallest are tiny plankton called zooplankton. In fact, there are hundreds of thousands of different kinds of ocean animals.
Most of the marine animals live in shallower water, but there are some species that can be found in deep, dark sea trenches. Some ocean creatures even live in their own underwater caves.
In addition to plants and animals, the ocean is home to millions of other forms of life. The ocean is also the source of many nutrients that our land cannot produce.
This is why it’s so important to protect our oceans from pollution, overfishing, and other harmful activities. When oceans become polluted, they take away from the oxygen that helps our land and air stay healthy.
Carbon Dioxide, Heat and Acidification
The planet’s atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide are now higher than they have ever been before in geologic history. This is a result of human-caused emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal and oil.
It’s this additional amount of carbon dioxide that is causing ocean acidification. When carbon dioxide combines with water, it creates a chemical called carbonic acid, which in turn breaks down into hydrogen ions (H+). The concentration of these hydrogen ions changes the ocean’s pH value.
When the ocean’s pH becomes too acidic, it can be dangerous for a variety of marine organisms. Those that rely on carbonate ions – the building blocks of shells and skeletons – are especially at risk.
Global Warming and Ocean Acidification
The ocean absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, making it an important part of the climate cycle. As the atmosphere warms, it releases more carbon dioxide into the ocean, increasing its acidity. This increases the concentration of carbon in the ocean and can affect ocean temperatures, weather patterns, and the lives of many aquatic organisms.
Since the Industrial Revolution, the level of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere has increased about 30 percent. This is causing the ocean to absorb an additional 30 to 100 times more CO2 than it has in tens of millions of years.
As a result, the ocean’s pH is about 30 to 150 percent more acidic than it was before the Industrial Revolution. This can cause major damage to marine life, including the ocean’s largest inhabitants, coral reefs.