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17 Biggest Threats to Ocean Ecosystems

by Fitriani

The ocean is a vulnerable habitat on Earth. It faces many threats each day. The majority of the threats are caused through human actions. Here is a list containing 17 Threats to Ocean Ecosystem. We also explain how these threats harm the marine organisms and disrupt the ecosystem.

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1. Overfishing

As the demand for fish supply as food continues to rise, we deplete their population in the ocean ecosystems.With advanced technology, we can now catch hundreds of fish at once with nets. This may sound beneficial to the fishing industries but it is bad news for the ocean. (Also read: Prevention of Marine Polution)

It enables the catch for a huge amount of fish which may or may not be mature enough to be consumed. Frequent overfishing will disrupt the population because it happens faster than the fish’s ability to reproduce.

2. Chemical Pollution

The ocean water suffers a great deal from all the chemical pollution that flows into it. But where do these chemicals come from? Industrial agriculture can take most of the blame for harming the ocean ecosystem. The pesticides or fertilisers that they use for farming may benefit the crops that they plant. However, the runoff from these chemicals may come in contact with nearby rivers.

The water in the river then carries these chemicals into the ocean water. Once they enter the ecosystem, these chemicals slowly harm marine plants and animals.(Read: Types of Sea Lions)

3. Numerous Ocean Dead Zones

Ocean dead zones are specific areas in the oceans where they can no longer support life. The reason for this is the very low level of oxygen present in the water. There are more than 400 existing ocean dead zones. The numbers are expected to increase within the next few years. (Read: Major Ocean Basins)

Increasing dead zones mean an increasing amount of species being completely wiped out of the map. Global warming as well as dangerous waste that enters the oceans are contributing factors to these dead zones.

4. Deep Sea Drilling and Mining

Underneath the seafloor, there is an abundance of minerals, gas and oil. Industries always go after these reserves. They drill and mine in specific areas where there are a lot of these natural resources. (Read more: Stages of Ocean Basin Evolution)

Even though this is a great opportunities for the industries to expand, it threatens the plants and animals living in the ocean. Besides that, it has the high potential of destructing the marine habitats.

5. Plastic Waste

Plastic is a valuable material to humans. It is practical and useful for a lot of things. We rely so much of our lives on plastic. However, plastic waste has build up to a large amount due to our excessive use of it. (Also read: Types of Soil in the Ocean)

Most of these waste end up in the ocean. It threats the ocean ecosystem in several ways. Most of plastic waste takes many years to degrade thus dangerous chemical leeching to the ocean water from the waste is unavoidable. Other than that, marine animals often confuse plastic waste as food.

6. Sunscreen Chemicals

We are told over and over again that we need to protect our skin from harmful rays of the sun by wearing sunscreen. But what seems to benefit us could end up harming the ocean.

Most of the sunscreen lotions available at the market are not environmental friendly. They contain chemicals that could cause bleaching to the coral reefs. Imagine where each year, millions of people swim in the ocean and these chemicals come in contact with the water through their skins. Over the years, they take a toll on the imbalance and the pH level of the ocean water. (Read: Types of Ocean Habitats)

7. Non-native Species

Non-native species are creatures that could potentially harm other native creatures in the oceans. They include marine animals such as the shore crabs, some species of starfish, Asian clams and lionfish. (Also read:Endangered Species in the Indian Ocean)

These invasive species are usually brought by boats or large ships from travels. Some of these creatures are known to have venoms within their bodies. They are able to attack native species and may carry diseases too. So they are able to ruin the food web of the ecosystem and drive the native species to extinction.

8. Destruction of Habitat by Nets

Nets are often used to fish a large amount of fish in the ocean. However, if the nets are too low to the sea floor, then they may cause serious threat. (Read more: Herbivores in the Pacific Ocean)

The nets could destroy some habitat since they are dragged across the sea floor. Things could get scraped up alongside the net, leaving a ruined habitat for marine animals and plants. When there is a damage to the habitat, then the whole ocean ecosystem would be affected. There is no knowing how fast this kind of damage can recover.

9. Tourism

Tourism is a great way to bring in additional income as well as introducing the beauty of the ocean ecosystem. However, tourists are people who come from different backgrounds and we don’t know how these people will behave.

Some tourists may not be considerate enough to care for the wellbeing of the ocean. They could leave trash behind due to ignorance or laziness.  Tourists may even damage marine lives such as the corals if they are not careful when swimming around the delicate habitat. (Read: Effects of Coral Reefs Destruction)

10. Development Along the Coastlines

The number of people living on earth continues to increase. This in turn also affect the increasing demand for housing near the beach. There are areas near the coastlines taken up for housing or other tourism related business.

This results in destroying a part of the ocean habitat and harming the whole ecosystem. Marine creatures die or no longer have a place where they can flourish. If we continue to take their habitat away from them then we might potentially cause an irreversible damage to the ocean ecosystem.

11. Lack of Protection

Although the ocean is the largest body of water and covers most parts of the earth, it actually becomes the most vulnerable ecosystem. It is reported that only a small percentage of the ocean is protected. The percentage is around 3.4%. (Also read: Types of Sea Snakes)

Meanwhile the percentage of the ocean covering the earth’s surface is around 70%. Thus, this shows at how much of the ocean is vulnerable to human exploitation and endangerment. If more of the ocean ecosystems are protected, human activities can be controlled and monitored which offer protection to the ocean.

12. Ocean Acidification

The ocean actually has the natural ability to absorb carbon dioxide that constantly released in the air around us. But the carbon dioxide is then turned into carbonic acid that increases the acid level of the ocean. (Find more: Types of Small Ocean Fish)

When the ocean water is too acidic, marine creatures and plants find it hard to live since the oxygen level is depleted. Ocean acidification has become a concerning threat to the ocean. If the ocean pH level keeps dropping then many species could end up going extinct. (Read: Types of Ocean Bacteria)

13. Global Warming

Global warming is a major threat to the ocean ecosystem. There is no way of stopping it and it seems that it is going to get worse. As the climate keeps getting warmer, marine lives are under a lot of pressure and stress from the rapid changes. (Read: Endangered Animals in Coral Reef)

Frequent happenings of coral bleaching is a proof that global warming has pose a serious threat on the ocean ecosystem. Corals are vital to many marine organisms so when they die then it means many other organisms will die too.

14. Ships and Boats

Ships are constantly travelling from coasts to coasts. They are needed to carry loads between nations or regions across the world. This heavy activity contributes many threats to the ocean ecosystem. These threats include potential oil spill. (Find more: Threats to Ocean Organisms)

Oil spill is a common disaster for the ocean. Another threat from ships is the oil waste and rubbish they release. The paint used on some ships or boats are also known to contain toxic chemicals. Toxic paint runoffs contaminate ocean water and harm marine animals.

15. Increasing Temperature of the Ocean

Due to the worsening climate change, the temperature of the ocean has increased. Reportedly, the temperature of the water has risen by 0.1 degree celcius. (Read more:Plants in the Coral Reef)

The number seems small but it is able to cause a massive disaster. Coral reefs require a certain temperature to maintain their health. Any sudden changes to the temperature will definitely harm them. As of now, there have been many reports of bleaching coral reefs which may take decades to recover. Unfortunately, warmer water also means a rise in the sea level. Floating ice on ocean waters may melt at a faster rate as the temperature continues to increase.

16. Radioactive Waste or Materials

Sometimes radioactive waste or materials find their way to the ocean. They either end up there on purpose or by accident. Some are waste products from industries. (Also read: Endangered Species in the Great Barrier Reef)

Radioactive waste can cause a lot of harm to many marine creatures. When they come in contact with the ocean, they could cause mass death. Another threat is mutations. Moreover, they could damage habitats which may take years to recover. Radioactive waste or materials seriously harm ocean ecosystem due to their high level of toxicity and unpredictable effects. (Read: Water Snails Facts)

17. Burning of Fossil Fuels

The constant use of fossil fuels on land for cars or industries has a negative impact to the ocean. It disrupts the marine ecosystem due to the nature of the ocean. The ocean is able to absorb most of carbon dioxide in the air. (Find more: Types of Ocean Storms)

But as we burn more and more fossil fuels, the ocean takes all the carbon dioxide and it causes a drop in the pH level of the ocean. The ocean could become acidic and uninhabitable. The ocean ecosystem will be ruined if people do not reduce their use of fossil fuel and turn into a more environmental friendly alternative.

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These threats will continue to slowly destroy the ocean if nothing is done about it. The sooner we realise how damaging our actions are to the ocean ecosystems, the sooner we can change our actions to protect it.

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