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What You Need To Know: The Ocean and Carbon

Updated: Mar 23, 2023

The Earth is composed of 29% land and 71% water, of which only 3% is freshwater and the other 97% is saltwater. We can imagine how vast our ocean is with its mysterious depth. The ocean is close to us and has an abundance of resources, but it is underexplored compared to outer space. The reason is that the technology is unavailable yet, the increase of water pressure along the way to the deep ocean, and the human interest that will affect the amount of investment (Pierson, 2019).


Blue Ocean. Blue carbon ecosystem, carbon, ocean, coral bleaching, Ocean Acidification, marine ecosystems. CarbonEthics
The Ocean. Source: pngtree

Journey to The Deep Ocean

Fortunately, the technology is rapidly developing. People can measure the ocean depth with sound waves from ships or radio waves from satellites (NIST, 2021). The average ocean depth is about 3.7 km. Meanwhile, the deepest ocean is approximately 11 km, located beneath the western Pacific Ocean in the southern end of the Mariana Trench (NOAA, n.d.). NOAA has a technology, ROV Deep Discoverer, that can explore the deepest place on Earth. Many unique species are discovered in every expedition, and there is a lot that is still unknown.


New species of jellyfish in Mariana Trench. Blue carbon ecosystem, carbon, ocean, coral bleaching, Ocean Acidification, marine ecosystems. CarbonEthics Indonesia
Unique jellyfish species were spotted at 3.7 km depth in the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument by NOAA OER in the 2016 deepwater exploration of the Marinas. Source: NOAA Fisheries

Up Above The Ocean Surface

After a short escape to the deepwater, we are traveling to the coast where a lot of human activity happens and directly affects the ocean. Human life depends on marine ecosystems, especially in coastal communities, from economic activity, tourism and hospitality, research, to aquaculture. There is more benefit that the ocean gives to our life. We are familiar with forests as the Earth’s lungs. However, the ocean also produces almost half of the Earth’s oxygen through oceanic plankton that is consumed by marine life (NOAA, n.d.).


Coral reefs at Raja Ampat Indonesia. Blue carbon ecosystem, carbon, ocean, coral bleaching, Ocean Acidification, marine ecosystems. CarbonEthics Indonesia
Beautiful Coral Reefs at Raja Ampat, Indonesia. Source: Factsofindonesia.com

Ocean habitat is diverse. We have talked about the dark and cold open ocean habitat in the Mariana trench filled with unique creatures. The other habitats are shallow, sunny, and warm coastal that only comprise 7% of the total ocean area. Plant and animal species in the ocean adapted to certain habitat conditions, including water current, light intensity, temperature, water pressure, nutrients, food availability, and water salinity. Corals, mangroves, seaweed, and seagrasses are some of the nurturers of the coasts that create habitats for other organisms (NPS, 2016).


Carbon and Ocean Acidification

From the coastal area, we travel to the land where most of the human activity takes place. Human civilization is developing rapidly along with technology. During the industrial revolution, humans extracted carbon buried underground for thousands of years and burned it into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. About 30% of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean, forming carbonic acid. Carbonic acid can dissociate into hydrogen and bicarbonate ions that decrease the pH level and cause ocean acidification (NOAA, 2020).


Ocean Acidification Infographic by CarbonEthics


Ocean acidification is one destructive factor of marine life, especially for coral reefs. Acidic seawater holds less calcium carbonate that is needed by coral reefs to build protective shells and exoskeletons. Coral reefs with fragile and slow-growing corals erode more quickly than they formed. Reefs can disappear, leading to the possibility of entire species extinction. Global acts are needed to cut carbon emissions and protect the world coral reef ecosystems (Ritter-Davis, 2012)


Carbon and Coral Bleaching

Besides ocean acidification, carbon also creates another problem for the ocean. Warmer ocean as the impact of global warming by excessive carbon dioxide in the atmosphere also causes coral bleaching. Coral bleaching happens when there is a change in environmental conditions that makes the symbiotic algae that provide food expelled from the coral body, turning them white. When the algae are gone for too long, and the stress condition persists, the coral will eventually die. Coral reefs are sensitive to pH, temperature, light, and pollution. When the factors largely deviate from the optimum conditions, they can disturb the ecosystem (NOAA, n.d.).


Coral Bleaching Infographic by CarbonEthics


Blue Carbon Ecosystem

We can save the ocean from acidification by regenerating and protecting the blue carbon ecosystem. Here, we will meet our blue carbon avengers, mangrove, seagrass, seaweed, and corals. They have an essential role in carbon sequestration. Blue carbon ecosystems sequestered ten times more carbon than mature forests (NOAA, n.d.). They also act as a house for marine species, which can be harvested by humans as a food source and increasing their livelihood. Let’s start to plant blue carbon avengers and protect our blue carbon ecosystems!


The Role of Carbon Avengers by CarbonEthics


If you enjoy reading this article, please tune-up for the next post! While waiting, consider checking out our free crash course to climate change and blue carbon ecosystem called Carbon Voice Curriculum or support us by visiting our website CabonEthics.org (we have cute and powerful babies for you to adopt!). Lastly, I would like to invite all of you, readers, to reduce what you can, offset what you cannot with CarbonEthics.







References

Ritter-Davis, F. (2012, Jul 26). Ocean Acidification and Coral Reefs. National Geographic. Accessed on 14/05/2021 from https://www.nationalgeographic.org/media/acidification-reefs/

Goreau, T. J. F. (2018, Dec 29). Recharging Indonesian Marine Biodiversity. Accessed on 14/05/2021 from Global Coral Reef Alliance website, http://www.globalcoral.org/recharging-indonesian-marine-biodiversity/

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). (2021, Apr 29). How do you measure the depth of the ocean? Accessed on 13/05/2021 from https://www.nist.gov/how-do-you-measure-it/how-do-you-measure-depth-ocean

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). (2020, Apr). Ocean Acidification. Accessed on 14/05/2021 from https://www.noaa.gov/education/resource-collections/ocean-coasts/ocean-acidification

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). (n.d.). Coastal Blue Carbon. Accessed on 14/05/2021 from National Ocean Service website, https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/ecosystems/coastal-blue-carbon/

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). (n.d.). How deep is the ocean? Accessed on 13/05/2021 from National Ocean Service website, https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/oceandepth.html

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). (n.d.). How much oxygen comes from the ocean? Accessed on 13/05/2021 from National Ocean Service website, https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/ocean-oxygen.html

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). (n.d.). What is coral bleaching? Accessed on 14/05/2021 from National Ocean Service website, https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/coral_bleach.html

National Park Service (NPS). (2016, Dec 1). Ocean Habitats. Accessed on 14/05/2021 from https://www.nps.gov/subjects/oceans/ocean-habitats.html

Pierson, P. (2019, Apr 19). You Asked: Why Do We Know More About the Moon Than Our Own Oceans? State of The Planet. Accessed on 14/05/2021 from Columbia Climate School website, https://news.climate.columbia.edu/2019/04/19/you-asked-moon-oceans/





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