What Is the Ocean and Why Is It Important?

The Ocean is the world’s largest body of salt water, covering 70% of Earth and containing 97% of Earth’s water. It has significant impacts on weather, temperature and our food supply.

The ancient Greeks conceived of the sea as a vast river encircling the world and were led by their god of the sea, Oceanus (). Today we know that the ocean is far more than just a huge river, it is an integral part of our planet’s climate system. It drives global currents, provides life-supporting oxygen and is a key player in regulating Earth’s temperature. It is also a source of energy for humans and an amazing habitat for marine species.

Despite the fact that humans are now a dominant force in the ocean, there are many reasons to be optimistic about its future. For example, a growing number of people are prioritizing ecosystem restoration. This aims at helping degraded marine ecosystems recover and provide their associated ‘ecosystem services’.

This approach is more and more embraced by politicians and businesses because of its effectiveness, cost-efficiency and sustainability. However, it is important to remember that fully recovering a damaged ocean ecosystem may never be possible.

The ocean is the world’s largest and deepest natural system. It covers 70% of the Earth’s surface and is home to an astonishing diversity of creatures. It plays an essential role in the global water cycle, storing heat and carbon dioxide and providing a vital food source for billions of people. Its pH value at the surface has dropped significantly since 1950 as a result of human activity, which is leading to the process known as ocean acidification.

Oceans are a dynamic and complex natural system, driven by constant forces such as plate tectonics, post-glacial rebound and sea level rise, along with changes in the Sun’s intensity and climate change. These influences, as well as a complex interaction of processes at the microscopic level, determine the structure and dynamics of the global ocean.

Few bodies of water have the same intricate system of currents as our oceans. Ranging from predictable tidal currents to fickle rip currents, they are a result of wind, gravity and differences in water density. Ocean currents influence weather, transport of fish and people, the cycling of nutrients and even the flow of our blood.

Water molecules at the surface of the ocean tend to move down towards the center due to gravity. But a force called the Coriolis effect causes them to spin and flow around large mounds of water, creating circular currents like the Gulf Stream and North Equatorial Current. Water at lower depths is pushed by gravity, but it can also be pulled down by chemical gradients, such as those created by the difference in water temperature and salinity. The resulting ocean circulation is often referred to as the thermohaline circulation.

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