Water And Oceanography

The Effect Pollution has on the Oceans



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While being one of the most enchanting places on Earth, the oceanic realm is sadly deteriorating at a very fast rate. Various activities undertaken by mankind are polluting the oceans, rendering their inhabitants unable to survive, let alone proliferate. The effects of pollution on the world’s oceans have been thoroughly studied, and an outline of these is listed below.

Acidification of the oceans

Over 30% of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted by power plants and vehicles finds its way into the ocean. As CO2 dissolves in seawater, carbonic acid is formed, increasing hydrogen levels and decreasing the sea’s pH. The resultant increase in acidity level lowers the amount of calcium carbonate in the sea, making it difficult for certain marine organizms to form or stay alive. As these organizms are part of the food chain, a decrease in their number will automatically endanger the survival of other marine creatures dependent on them as a food source. Coral reefs and algae are already slowly disappearing due to the oceans’ acidification.

Eutrophication of coastal areas

Nutrients which find themselves in the ocean through surface run-off and reckless dumping of agricultural and sewage waste increase nitrate and phosphate levels in the sea, boosting the growth of certain organizms in the process. Algal blooms, for example, are the direct result of eutrophication. Apart from the possibility of being toxic in nature, such blooms cover the entire surface of the sea and prevent photosynthesis. While providing an increased level of oxygen, algae have a short life-span. As decay sets in, bacteria start sucking up the sea’s dissolved oxygen level, causing the marine ecosystem to asphyxiate and die out.

Asphyxiation of marine creatures

Apart from being the end result of eutrophication, asphyxiation can occur through other means. Oil slicks, for example, can have devastating consequences on the oceans and their habitat. As it comes into contact with marine creatures, oil tends to stick to their respiratory systems, suffocating them in the process. Items made out of plastic, such as bags, can easily find themselves polluting the oceans and endangering aquatic creatures in the process. Sea turtles are a case in point as they confuse these bags with one of their food sources - jellyfish. Rather than being ingested, the plastic bags stick to the turtles’ airways, resulting in their suffocation. Dolphins and sharks have also been known to meet their demise in this gruesome manner.

Poisoning through bioaccumulation

Mercury, lead, arsenic, spent uranium, burnt oil, untreated sewage and a myriad of other harmful substances and waste have a nasty habit of not dissolving in the ocean. Through bioaccumulation, these harmful materials and chemicals have the potential of poisoning the entire food chain, with each tier ingesting more toxins than the previous one. As humans are at the top of the food chain, they will be the ones to suffer the most from poisoning through bioaccumulation, with the consequences ranging from birth deformation, to illnesses and cancers and straight on to death.

Too much damage has already been done to the oceans. Unless action is taken to reduce oceanic pollution and its resultant effect, the once fertile oceans will deteriorate into lifeless pools. Should that happen, not only would an important food source be lost, but even the economy will be impacted through the loss of jobs, businesses and commercial activities associated with the oceans, their inhabitants and the aquatic recreation mankind has gotten accustomed to enjoying.

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More about this author: Gareth Carmichael

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ARTICLE SOURCES AND CITATIONS
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.ocean-acidification.net/FAQacidity.html
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://toxics.usgs.gov/definitions/eutrophication.html
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.ehow.com/facts_5485821_definition-asphyxiation.html
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.sailorsforthesea.org/Sailing-and-The-Environment/Ocean-Watch/Ocean-Watch-Essays/Bioaccumulation.aspx