Trees are not the only life form that provides the planet with oxygen. Micro-sized marine life such as plankton are responsible for converting carbon dioxide to oxygen. Climate change and rising carbon emissions are threatening the ocean’s natural mechanisms to sustain life, and are leaving scientists with a race to beat the clock.
Churning In Motion
The ocean hides underneath its depths a diverse amount of life, which are responsible for regulating the climate and maintaining the biome. Although it may seem that most of the planet’s oxygen come from trees, they only provide 25 percent of life-sustaining oxygen. Phytoplankton and other marine plant life are responsible for producing an estimated 50 to 85 percent of the oxygen in the planet’s atmosphere.
Bacteria, diatoms, and algae utilize photosynthesis to release oxygen into the atmosphere. These creatures are the foundation of the aquatic food web and are essential to supporting life by using sunlight, carbon dioxide, and rich nutrients churned up from the sea floor by hurricanes. The complex and fragile web of life on the planet is under threat because of rising carbon emissions, warming temperatures, and ocean acidification.
Imminent Die Off Possible
The ability for microorganisms to produce enough oxygen is at risk of cessation at the end of the century, as 40 percent of plankton have perished since 1950. Warmer waters make it challenging for phytoplankton and other forms of marine life to thrive, leading to migration, adaption failures, and dead coral reefs. More extreme weather patterns and the saturation of carbon emissions by the ocean have led to the erosion of the sea floor, which has thrown off the balance of once widely-available rich nutrients.
Areas where the ocean is unable to let enough sunlight leads to disruptions in the life cycle for plankton. During the spring, the phytoplankton bloom throughout the world’s oceans and produce oxygen, taking advantage of the sunlight and nutrients available. Similar to the ebb and flow of the ocean tide, plankton and other oxygen-producers in the ocean go through a cyclical existence.
Reversing The Flow
Scientists and concerned citizens around the world are devising ways to help preserve the health of the oceans and marine life. Acidification of the seas, reduced numbers of phytoplankton, and absorption of carbon emissions caused by the burning of fossil fuels have put a dent in the production of oxygen. The push for sustainable and renewable forms of energy would help reduce the damage inflicted on marine life and our planet’s fragile ecosystem.
Studies involving the planting and maintenance of kelp gardens, and reviving coral reefs and other life which can filter the ocean of carbon dioxide may help reverse the impact of human pollution. The rapidly changing pH levels of the ocean’s waters are motivating researchers and developers to act quickly to check and balance a troubled ecosystem. If the seas are healthy, phytoplankton and other marine life that filter the water can flourish and better sustain life on the planet.
Your salt shaker may be hiding a dirty secret. Microplastics are lurking in nearly 100% of table salt found on grocery store shelves, dining tables, and in kitchens worldwide.
If you thought only marine life was suffering the brunt of human’s ill-fated love affair with plastic, think again. Thanks to microfibers from clothing, widespread use of disposable plastic items, and inadequate environmental regulations, plastic has entangled itself within the food web.
An Ancient Spice Sullied
In a lot of places, sea water is often left to evaporate to leave behind piles of salt. Sadly, because of the proliferation of plastics in the oceans, salt processed in Asian countries tends to have higher levels of microplastics.
Sea salt is valued for its strong flavor, multiple health benefits, and as a rich source of nutrients. Consumers should take caution when using sea salt, as it has more contamination from microplastics than lake salt and rock salt.
Plastics With Nowhere To Go
Both wealthy industrial nations and poorer countries have contributed to plastic pollution. Microplastics form from ingredients in cosmetics, apparel, and inexpensive mass-produced goods. Oceans are not the only places that are littered with tons of plastics, as coastlines, beaches, and natural waterways get bogged down with refuse.
According to sources, by 2015 the world managed to produce 7.8 billion tons of plastic. The mismanagement of plastic waste around the world has led to plastics polluting rivers and oceans. Humans still need to work on reducing the demand for plastics and adhere to responsible disposal methods to prevent entry to the global food chain.
Beyond The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is not the only sore point where plastic pollution persists. The need for solutions to clean up the oceans and land where there are microplastics present is urgent.
When scientists discovered an enzyme that could potentially consume stubborn oil-based plastics in 2016, it was a glimmer of hope for dealing with the plastic problem. Efforts have been stepped up to scour the world’s oceans for plastics, with the hope of reversing the damage inflicted on the planet’s fragile ecosystem.
Food Chain Disrupted
Plastics in the ocean are not only a threat to marine life, as microplastic-tinged sea salt has been observed for years. Austrian researchers recently studied a small pool of participants and discovered the presence of microplastics in samples of human stool. The study’s results are troubling, as the participants all came from different countries and followed their typical eating habits.
There are ten common microplastics that are regularly found in the water, air, table salt, and even bottled drinks. Polyethylene is typically used in plastic shopping bags and bottles. Polypropylene is used in rope and bottle caps.
Human health is at risk. Plastics can build up in the intestines over time, triggering inflammation and stressing the immune system. Animals have been studied for years for evidence of microplastics in the food chain, and now humans can be added to the list as being affected.