The ocean covers 71% of the Earth’s surface and is home to a staggering 94% of all life. It is the largest ecosystem on Earth and has a tremendous influence over the planet’s climate, weather, food supply, and many other aspects of our lives.
Phytoplankton, tiny marine plants that live on the surface of the ocean, produce, through photosynthesis, about 50-80% of the oxygen we breathe. The ocean also acts as a carbon sink, absorbing huge amounts of CO2, one of the main causes of global warming.
Ocean currents distribute heat around the globe and help regulate temperature and climate. The ocean also provides one fifth of the animal protein people consume.
A healthy ocean is vital to human life. It is a source of food, and supports economic activity through fishing, shipping, and tourism. It is a critical habitat for biodiversity, and offers recreational activities like swimming, snorkeling, and surfing. The ocean also plays a role in medical and scientific research. In addition, it provides a means of transport and is a source of renewable energy, such as wind, wave, and thermal energy, through the interaction of tides, currents, and temperature and salinity gradients.
However, the ocean is under threat from a range of natural and human-induced hazards. It is the site of natural disasters like tsunamis and hurricanes, as well as a source of anthropogenic microbial and macrobial hazards and extractive dangers such as mining and drilling.
In fact, it is estimated that human activity contributes about a third of the pollution in the world’s oceans. This pollution includes plastics, chemicals, heavy metals, and other anthropogenic pollutants. It is a growing problem that we can solve only by working together as a global community to protect our oceans and their biodiversity.
National Geographic’s Ocean Initiative is dedicated to restoring the health and productivity of the ocean by inspiring people to care, acting to reduce our impact, and promoting the creation of marine protected areas. To learn more, visit the Ocean initiative page. National Geographic is proud to work with partners from all over the world to preserve our oceans. Together, we are bringing the ocean back to life. We hope you will join us!