National Marine Week is an annual celebration that highlights the beauty, importance and fragility of our marine ecosystems. It is hosted by the Wildlife Trust and runs from July 24th to August 6th, it is a period of time dedicated to raising awareness about the conservation and protection of marine environments.
In this blog, we will dive into the significance of National Marine Week and emphasise the need to protect and conserve these invaluable natural resources.
The oceans are often referred to as the "lungs of the Earth" due to their critical role in regulating the planet's climate and oxygen levels. Through a process called photosynthesis, marine plants, primarily microscopic algae known as phytoplankton, absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, accounting for about half of the world's oxygen production. These "oxygen factories" not only support marine life but also provide the very air we breathe.
The oceans are home to an extraordinary array of marine life, from tiny plankton to majestic whales and vibrant coral reefs. This biodiversity is not only a testament to the wonders of nature but also provides vital ecosystem services. Coral reefs, for instance, protect coastlines from erosion, provide habitat for countless species, and offer a source of food and income for coastal communities. Mangroves and seagrass meadows act as nurseries for fish and other marine organisms, while also absorbing carbon dioxide and providing coastal protection from storms. The seas surrounding the UK alone are home to over 30,000 different marine species and National Marine Week allows for a celebration of these animals.
As briefly mentioned, oceans can absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide meaning they are referred to as ‘carbon sinks’ much like forests are. They absorb and store 25% of atmospheric carbon which helps reduce greenhouse gas levels, slowing the pace of global warming. Alongside carbon regulation, oceans also help regulate the climate as they absorb and store large amounts of heat which help to stabilise global temperatures and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Because the oceans are degrading as a result of human actions, particularly increased climate change and global warming. The dramatic increase in the release of greenhouse gasses has had widespread impacts on marine ecosystems.
A large problem is ocean acidification which disrupts the growth and survival of coral reefs and shell-forming organisms due to a decrease in the PH of the ocean. Additionally, warming oceans contribute to the bleaching and death of coral reefs which subsequently threatens the habitats of marine species. The increase in the average global temperature melts the ice caps of the polar regions which have a multitude of negative knock-on effects, such as the loss of animal life like polar bears and penguins but also rising sea levels which threaten some of our coastal towns and cities.
It has been estimated by the FAO that 80% of global marine fish populations have been overexploited or depleted, this places the biodiversity of the oceans in danger which has severe consequences for not only other marine ecosystems but also humans as our food sources and economies are threatened.
This provides just a small insight into why having a dedicated time to broaden our knowledge of marine life and focus on protecting it is so important. Whilst this should be done all year round National Marine Week creates hyper-awareness for the cause.
Each one of us has a role to play in protecting the health of our oceans. Here are a few sustainable practices that can make a positive impact during National Marine Week and all year round.
National Marine Week serves as a timely reminder of the immense value of our oceans. By actively engaging in marine conservation efforts, we can protect and restore these fragile ecosystems for future generations. Let us celebrate the wonders of our oceans, raise awareness about their importance, and work collectively towards sustainable practices that ensure the well-being of marine life and the preservation of our planet's most precious resources.
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