The Ocean is a large body of salt water that covers 71% of Earth’s surface. Its a home and food source to countless species of fish, plants, mammals and birds. It is also responsible for driving global weather patterns, absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and regulating climate on our blue planet.
The ocean is a huge reservoir of life, with a vast array of organisms, some of which are so complex they can only be understood by scientists. There are also coral reefs, which provide a habitat for many marine species and are a natural form of sunscreen in the Sun’s rays. The ocean also provides an essential form of transportation – 90% of the world’s trade is carried by sea, as well as passenger transport and tourism. The ocean’s ecosystems are vital to the production of life-saving medicines, with over 10,000 compounds extracted from marine environments and used in biomedical research, medications, treatments and diagnostic testing.
Oceans are formed by tectonic plates which float on a layer of hot, semi-liquid rock called the mantle. As the plates move, molten rock rises from deep inside the Earth to the surface through a process known as seafloor spreading. This creates vast underwater mountain ranges known as Mid-Ocean Ridges. Ocean currents then connect to these ridges, distributing heat and nutrients around the world.
While rainforests are often referred to as the “lungs of the Earth”, there is increasing recognition that oceans are truly the lungs of our planet – they produce over 80 percent of the oxygen on our blue planet. They are also critical for regulating our climate as they distribute heat from the equator to the poles, and they keep the global temperature stable.
Aside from their environmental role, the oceans are a source of food for millions of people worldwide, providing between 20 and 50 percent of animal protein consumed in developed countries and up to 70 percent in developing nations. They also generate billions of dollars in economic activity through fishing, shipping and tourism.
While the oceans offer incredible benefits to humans, they are facing unprecedented threats: Ocean plastics are polluting marine ecosystems, overfishing is jeopardizing the stability of fish stocks and nutrient pollution is creating dead zones.
Despite these challenges, the oceans are resilient and have the potential to become more productive, sustainable and healthy in the future. Fortunately, there are many ways to help. You can do your part by reducing your ocean plastic waste, supporting sustainable seafood and protecting marine wildlife. The most important thing you can do to help the ocean is to learn more about it. There is so much to discover about this incredible, mysterious and powerful living system. So, get out there and explore!