The Ocean's Skeletons | Teen Ink

The Ocean's Skeletons

July 15, 2019
By kamrynjmz BRONZE, Katy, Texas
kamrynjmz BRONZE, Katy, Texas
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Marine ecosystems, since the foundation of natural society, serve as an exigent factor in the continuation of global growth.

Nonetheless, they arrive with a need for critical analysis of the damage it sustains as a result of primarily anthropoid action.

However, in order to discuss this acute affair, we must comprehend the role oceans uphold in society. Commonly known to span over three-fourths of the earth’s surface, oceans assume primary responsibility for providing breathable oxygen. The Amazon Rainforest, inaccurately recognized as the major source of oxygen in the world, fabricates a mere twenty-eight percent of production when juxtaposed with the seventy contributed by oceans, no matter the distance an individual resides from marine environments.

Microscopic organisms, phytoplankton, act much as trees on land. By absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen through photosynthesis, phytoplankton regulate natural cycles and produce air while profoundly outnumbering the aggregate of trees. Marine significance traverses much farther; substantiating the fact most countries occupy near-water locations, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimated that over fifty nine million people participate in fishing or aquaculture industries across the world to supply themselves or region with food and other resources (Source 1). This demand will only increase as the world population augments by approximately 1.5 million per week. Moreover, marine systems do not restrict to solely oceanside activity. Scientific advancement owes a notable proportion of its success to oceans. Numerous antiviral pharmaceutical drugs, such as acyclovir, source from nucleotides isolated from Caribbean sponges (Source 2). The  medication retains a place on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines,” containing the most unassailable and efficient treatments necessary in a health care system (Source 3). Trabectedin, an antitumor therapy drug, assists in the treatment of soft-tissue sarcoma that predominantly affects the arms and legs. The first marine-originated cancer drug, extracted from sea squirt Ecteinascidia turbinata, vindicates a noteworthy responsibility in cancer treatment widely utilized today. With this and over sixty percent of all life on earth inhabiting the ocean, climate changes on earth proves of greater need of address. The infamous “greenhouse effect” due to heightened manufacturing and factory activity engenders amounts of greenhouse gases to confine in the atmosphere. They accumulate posthaste than natural operations (photosynthesis) can absorb them. Following the Industrial Revolution of 1760, a shift from a bucolic to manufacturing society occurred employing heating methods and fossil fuel combustion that fostered growth of power plants. Exhaustive deforestation in Eastern Europe and South America amalgamated with populace magnification has led to over seventy percent increase in emissions from 1974 to 2004, according to the European Environment Agency (EEA). The ocean has absorbed more than eighty percent of emission heat hoarded by the atmosphere, gradually chipping away at biodiversity, a principle that ensures ecosystem productivity and sustainability (Source 4). Altered climate patterns and carbon pollution have especially influenced the prevalence of coral bleaching in reef systems across the earth. Although detractors may contend that coral bleaching exists as a consequence of natural marine processes, evidence of human-induced climate change reigns and sets off a chain reaction that negatively affects reef ecosystems. 

Prevalent in nearly all oceans in the thousands, coral reefs prove themselves extensive  Although revered for their bright colors that contribute to ocean aesthetic, coral, most importantly, champions a paramount function to marine sustainability (Source 5). Described as the “tropical forests of the ocean,” coral reefs support “more species per than any other marine environment, including about 4,000 species of fish,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) (Source 5). Selfless and valuable, they provide a buffer, protecting adjoining coasts from wave activity, flooding, and tropical storms. This aids in the prevention of unpalatable erosion, property destruction, and injury, simultaneously providing shelter. To further include human concern, we depend on reefs economically. The NOAA proclaims the merit of reefs is over one hundred million dollars, and [i]n developing countries, coral reefs contribute about one-quarter of the total fish catch, providing critical food resources for tens of millions of people (Source 5).” 

These facts vindicate prompt address of our issue. Coral bleaching occurs when coral secretes the marine algae zooxanthellae that inhabits tissue, providing coral with energy and reproduction potential through photosynthesis and enabling exhibition of vibrant color. This loss of algae sources from external stressors such as pollution or higher temperatures, leaving behind its apparent “skeleton” as the coral turns white, hampering the coral from executing its primary niche. 

The issue grows by the day. Increased marine temperatures afflicted by global warm serve as the chief genesis of bleaching. The Great Barrier Reef, a primary concern, had forty-nine percent of its coral bleaching in 2016-2017. As the largest coral reef in the world, the Great Barrier Reef proffers a habitat for over 1,500 types of fish species and six of the seven species of endangered sea turtles (Source 6). In some cases, coral may recover from bleaching and reclaim their algae. However, protracted factors hamper redevelopment. Even though coral may rebound, recuperation may span decades, thus bleaching should not occur frequently. Bleaching eradicates coral that aids in sustaining different types of organisms threatens their lives, and removal of just one possesses the ability to topple an ecosystem and eventually, biodiversity. Biodiversity ensures ecosystem productivity and protection, all the while working to produce food and medicine for humans. Wide ranges of wildlife work to make agriculture or aquaculture feasible through predation, and many ocean species attain responsibility for water filtration. Moreover, Richard S. Ostfeld and Felicia Keesing of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies investigated the link between biodiversity and human health. With their “dilution effect” theory, they researched Lyme disease and a major host, the white-footed mouse and discovered that regions with higher host populations reduced the risk of Lyme disease in humans. They reported that “when host diversity is high, there is a lower probability that ticks will feed on a white-footed mouse...ticks are less likely to become infected with B. burgdorferi when they feed on other vertebrate animals...when ticks obtain their larval blood meal without becoming infected, they are not dangerous to humans when they feed as nymphs the following year (Source 7). Besides this notion and the role of coral in protecting building destruction and human injury, bleaching vexes the global fishing economy, and its loss will cost over $375 billion as itself and inhabiting organisms decompose, affecting food sources for millions (Source 5).

Thus, coral bleaching ultimately sets of a chain reaction that branches out into complex, adverse effects spanning land and sea. With increased carbon emissions that warm oceans, humans ultimately inflict damage on themselves along with marine environments, and their destruction backfires on anthropoid society.

This recurs to the need of disentanglement. Although inevitable, coral bleaching rates have the possibility of decline if global society collaborates through specific projects. First, individuals or groups attain the responsibility to educate their peers on the aspects of coral bleaching and warming effects across the world. I suggest awareness through school seminars, as these provide knowledge at a young age to influence a child’s thinking and drive for a particular topic. The University of Rochester Medical Center reports that a human brain does not fully develop until age twenty-five (Source 8). Hence, it proves of importance the need for early education of global warming; as the new generation arises, global warming will soon fall into their hands. On a more general and expeditious term, companies must reduce quantities of carbon emissions. Although seemingly naive and intractable, there exists techniques to lower them. Large-scale factories can cultivate more energy-efficient machinery processes to reduce pollution, such as the utilization of wind turbines or bioenergy to execute manufacturing. Additionally, factories may implement reduction mechanisms that eradicate carbon dioxide before entering the atmosphere, thereby reversing it. Plausible methods include regenerative thermal oxidizers (RTOs), that manipulate high temperatures to destroy pollutants, and catalytic oxidizers that appoint chemical catalysts that react and diminish pollutant molecules as those found in carbon or petroleum (Source 10). On a social scale, recycling and use of energy efficient appliances, such as light bulbs or stoves, notably succor in pollution reduction of the air and ocean. Limited driving and thorough consumption of all food purchase restrict this as well, preventing burning and gas outflow. However, the regulation    does not only default to the land. In New Caledonia, the government voted to establish marine protected areas (MPAs) in its reefs, and to place strict laws concerning tourism, protecting 28,000 square kilometers of reef (Source 9). Governments assume the most effective strategy for combating warming through legality, so it serves utmost importance that citizens call the attention of legislative representatives to ensure almost certain directives of global warming.

Fossil fuel emission expands by the day; thus it persists an obligation to vociferously counter its objectives on issues of coral bleaching, glacier melting, animal extinction that tarnishes the natural world. As we raise the next generation, it deems critical to think of the future we want for them, and take action immediately.


Works Cited

Source 1:

Fao. “SOFIA 2018 - State of Fisheries and Aquaculture in the World 2018.”

Source 2:

“WHO Model Lists of Essential Medicines.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 13 Aug. 2018.

Source 3: 

Sagar, Sunil, et al. “Antiviral Lead Compounds from Marine Sponges.” Marine Drugs, Molecular Diversity Preservation International, 11 Oct. 2010.

Source 4:

 Climate Change: Ocean Heat Content | NOAA Climate, 1 Aug. 2018.

Source 5: 

“Corals.” NOAA National Ocean Service Education: Corals.

Source 6:

 Centre, UNESCO World Heritage. “Great Barrier Reef.” UNESCO World Heritage Centre.

Source 7:

Ostfeld, Richard S, and Felicia Keesing. “Biodiversity and Disease: the Case of Lyme Disease.” Institute of Ecosystem Studies, June 2000.

Source 8:  “Understanding the Teen Brain .” Understanding the Teen Brain - Health Encyclopedia - University of Rochester Medical Center.

Source 9: Chow, Lorraine. “New Caledonia Bans All Types of Extraction Surrounding Pristine Coral Reefs.” EcoWatch, EcoWatch, 14 Aug. 2018.

Source 10:

“How to Reduce Air Pollution from Factories and Industrial Operations.” The CMM Group, 24 Oct. 2018.

The author's comments:

My name is Kamryn Jimenez, a high school senior and enviromental activist. As time progresses, so does the harm to our earth, especially the oceans. Coral bleaching is a significant and extensive result of the current circumstances related to carbon emissions. I am passionate about raising awareness for this issue because of the substantial harm is has inflicted on several regions of the world, and the fact this may seem invisible since we do not reside within the oceans. With this prose piece, I hope in the future, individuals can become aware of these problems and realize there are ways to avoid further destuction. After all, even if we do not register it, humanity is dependent on the marine ecosystem.

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