The vast ocean covers 71 percent of Earth’s surface, supplying half of our planet’s oxygen and regulating rainfall and droughts. It also absorbs CO2, helping keep the carbon cycle in balance. From food to jobs, the ocean is a lifeline for billions of people. In addition, it’s a beautiful natural environment that provides fun and healthy recreational activities — like surfing and diving. In fact, research shows spending time in the ocean helps reduce stress.
There’s a big difference between the words “sea” and “ocean.” The term sea is usually used to refer to smaller bodies of water that are partially covered by land, while oceans are bigger body of salt water that encompass the entire world’s coastal regions. But sometimes the terms get confused.
Aside from providing half of the planet’s oxygen and regulating climate and weather, oceans are vital to our economy. They are critical shipping routes for trade and commerce, and a source of energy and minerals. And they are crucial for the livelihoods of billions of people, including many in developing countries.
But our oceans are in trouble, and they need our help. Climate change, pollution, and a lack of understanding of sustainable ocean stewardship are putting these essential resources at risk. This will limit their economic value for future generations, as well as stifle people’s ability to earn their living from them today.
Despite its immense size, the ocean is a mystery. In fact, we have only explored a small fraction of its surface. It’s estimated that more than 90 percent of the ocean has never been mapped or even seen by humans. But scientists are learning more about the ocean every day, thanks to a new generation of sophisticated technologies.
Scientists are finding that oceans are changing, and it’s not just because of global warming. The chemical properties of the ocean are changing, too. The pH value is getting lower, meaning that the water is becoming more acidic. This is primarily because of the way that carbon dioxide reacts with the seawater to create hydrogen ions.
In order to understand these changes, we need to know what makes the ocean tick. So, the National Geographic Society is collaborating with some of the world’s most preeminent explorers and scientists to make groundbreaking discoveries that generate critical scientific information, conservation-related initiatives and compelling stories.