The ocean. A vast body of extensive water that so many of us Australians grow up with. Embracing the waves, sun and laidback lifestyle that comes with it; for Aussies its a full blown coastal culture.
What many of us don’t know is that this ocean is essential to our entire ecosystems life. A lifeline that is responsible for roughly half of the earths breathable oxygen.
Phytoplankton and marine plants producing this oxygen are vulnerable. Humans continue to destabilise the natural ecosystem through the excessive production of carbon dioxide. This excessive production has forced the ocean to absorb huge amounts of carbon dioxide dissolving into the water and making carbonic acid. Dispersing across the ocean and rising ocean acidity.
If this wasn’t frightening enough the warming waters and nutrient runoff from agriculture fertiliser application is creating “dead zones”. Large areas of the ocean so low and deprived of oxygen that no organisms can survive. Those that can’t leave and those organisms unable to swim away die.
Deoxygenation is slowly suffocating the ocean from inside out. Nitrogen runoff through rivers into the ocean promotes growth of algae at an accelerated rate until the bloom dies and begins to decay. The decaying matter consumes oxygen and chokes out everything below. Unseen and hidden from above.
The Great Barrier Reef is on the frontline of this threat, despite laws and programs instilled onto farmers along the reefs coast, excess nitrogen runoff still enters the ocean killing off our magnificent coral reef. Education about what is happening is key. As a community we need to demand changes happen now in carbon dioxide emissions and commercial agricultural production.
We are by no means experts and nothing is going to be perfect but learning and talking about these issues, can only do good. Simple acts such as picking up rubbish along your local beach, spreading the word and being aware of what is happening is all stuff we can do now.
The ocean may look the same, the waves may still crash the same but beneath this brave exterior it is not. Its slowly suffocating. As Sylvia Earle says “No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.”