The Ocean is a massive body of salt water that covers 70% of the Earth and makes life on our planet possible. It is also the largest heat sink on the planet, absorbing 90% of the excess greenhouse gases produced by human activities. The oceans also provide habitats for many important species, and they are vital to our global climate system.
During the process of forming our planet, molten rock from inside the Earth’s core cooled and released water vapor that covered and protected our early Earth. Over time, these vapors condensed into the ocean we know today. The ocean provides vital services to the planet, including regulating weather patterns, absorbing and storing carbon dioxide, stabilizing the Earth’s temperature, generating oxygen, providing food, and supporting marine wildlife.
Our oceans are also very complex and beautiful places. The ocean floor is dotted with towering mountain ranges and deep canyons known as trenches. These features were formed by the action of moving currents, which transport heat from the tropics to the poles and then back again. Ocean currents also carry rich supplies of oxygen and nutrients that make the ocean such a vital environment for animals, and they help keep the surface temperatures of our oceans moderate.
A wide variety of chemical transport mechanisms affect the composition of the ocean. For example, rain that falls on land adds dissolved and particulate chemicals to the ocean. These chemicals are carried to the ocean’s margins by rivers and then, over time, deposited in mid-ocean regions thousands of kilometers from their continental source areas. The chemistry of the ocean is constantly changing as new materials enter and old ones are removed.
Whether you live near the ocean or not, you can help protect it. The next time you go to the beach, remember that “leave only footprints,” and pick up any trash that is left behind or blown away.
The ocean provides jobs to fishermen, lifeguards, surf instructors, harbours, marine-based tour operators, water sports businesses, holiday accommodations, and more. But unsustainable fishing threatens these ocean-based livelihoods and the millions of people who depend on them for their income.
This ocean-based economy is valuable to all of us, but it must be maintained and nurtured. Learn more about the ocean economy and how you can help make a difference for our oceans.