Ocean Biodiversity: What it is and why it is important
You may have heard the term ‘biodiversity’ before, but may not totally understand the true definition of what it is and why it’s important. Biodiversity is a shortened term of the words biological and diversity that incorporates and serves the connections and relationships between all living things. That includes, plants, animals, microorganisms, fungi, etc.
What many may not know, is that the biodiversity of a place, area, or ecosystem can actually be measured. It entails creating inventories of all plants, animals, and other species within a given area. This process is known as creating a Biodiversity Index; which can then be analyzed to find out what level of biodiversity is present. While this process can be time consuming, it’s an incredibly useful tool in getting a better understanding of an area and what species have a potential risk of being harmed by climate change, development, and natural disasters, just to name a few.
Oceans around the world have some of the highest biodiversity of all ecosystems on earth. From marine mammals, plant species, fish, bacterias and other living organisms, the oceans are absolutely blooming with life. Typically, the more species an area has, where all are working together in a united ecosystem, the higher the level of biodiversity. A high level of biodiversity is essential to the functioning and continuation of life all over the planet. However, that biodiversity is threatened, and must be protected now more than ever.
We continue our lives every day without realizing how many incredible functions are occurring in the natural world around us. Biodiversity is arguably one of the most important environmental factors to protect as populations grow, development and sprawl continues, and climate change poses many threats we can not totally be prepared for. If we imagine biodiversity around the world collapsing entirely, it would be the end for human life, and all life as we know it.
Biodiversity, especially associated with earth's oceans, is a system all on its own. However, the balance of biodiversity is rather delicate. Biodiversity can be reduced through habitat destruction, species extinction, temperature and climate disturbances, among other factors.
Pollution in the form of industrial chemicals, animal waste, and global greenhouse gases are also able to impact biodiversity of an area. While the oceans are large, the damage done to biodiversity occurs closer to shore, and starts a domino effect of impact over time, further out into the seas. Biodiversity is a delicate balance, a dance so to speak, between all species. It does not take much to throw the balance off entirely.
You may be wondering how biodiversity, and the potential lack of it, can affect human life. The oceans seem distant, and almost as if they have little to no connection to what occurs on land and in our daily lives. You may even be wondering if we can live without healthy oceans. However, we are much more connected to the oceans as land creatures than you may realize. And, no, life for humans without healthy, functioning oceans, is just impossible.
Firstly, economies around the world depend on the oceans. From tourism to fishing industries, the oceans support large amounts of money that enter countries around the world annually. Most people eat harvested seafood, which is a regulated industry. Although it is not the most sustainable industry, without monitoring the biodiversity of a fishing area, it becomes very easy to overfish a certain species. Ultimately, this can lead to threatening various fish species, and places stress upon the ecosystem from which they are harvested.
Tourism is directly linked to biodiverse oceans. Biodiversity allows for the vibrant fish, coral, and marine plant species that many travel to see and experience. Recreational activities like swimming, diving, snorkeling, etc. all rely on pristine environments to keep attracting visitors, and ultimately, funds into various economies.
One of the most essential ways the ocean protects human life is through climate stabilization. Oceans are responsible for producing one out of every two breaths we take. The oxygen produced would not be possible without biodiverse and balanced ecosystems at work. In addition, the ocean helps to equilibrate global temperatures, which means climate change can be mitigated by supporting healthy oceans.
In summary, biodiversity is a combination of the variety of animal species, plants, bacterias, and more, working together in harmony to support each other, and ultimately, life as we know it. Oceans are crucial needs for healthy human life, and for other life that we share the planet with. Biodiversity is still being studied, and scientists are discovering new connections and functions of biodiversity every year. It is essential that oceans be protected, and its biodiverse ecosystems be preserved for economic, health, and intrinsically valued reasons.