10.06.2017

Super Salty: Can The Oceans Be Saved?

As the world’s biggest but not endless resource is threatened by microplastics and pollution, scientists and organizations are devising new and innovative solutions to the problem

  • Super Salty: Can The Oceans Be Saved?
  • Super Salty: Can The Oceans Be Saved?
  • Super Salty: Can The Oceans Be Saved?
  • Super Salty: Can The Oceans Be Saved?
  • Super Salty: Can The Oceans Be Saved?

There is a lot we don’t know about our oceans - we’ve only explored less than 5% of them. What we do know is that they are critical to life as we know it, and that it is not a neverending resource. The ocean plays a critical role in controlling the climate, weather patterns, absorbing man made CO2, and practically immeasurable economic value (think jobs, tourism, food, medicines made from marine resources, etc.) in addition to providing half of the world’s oxygen. If that isn’t of the utmost importance, you might as well say that cows don’t moo and that grass isn’t green.
 
What’s Going On?
Right now there are over 400 “dead zones” (areas where oxygen levels are so low, life cannot be supported). Occasionally this happens naturally, but the biggest dead zones have been found near bodies of water contaminated with lots of agricultural chemicals. Furthermore, there is so much plastic in the ocean that pieces have even been found in the arctic just 1,000 miles away from the North Pole; this kind of pollution affects the whole food chain as plastics absorb toxins. Plastic has even been found in the fish that we eat! Considering how much of the world has a diet dependent on fish, we should be concerned. It’s not just litter that is destroying the ocean: increased CO2 emissions are causing the ocean to acidify which has a domino like effect on marine life. 
 
Ocean Cleanup: Cleaning From The Top Down
One company is trying to clean up our ocean - notably what is known as The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an area extremely saturated with microplastics. To put this in perspective, the UN recently had its first ever Ocean Conference where it was stated that if nothing is done, plastic could outweigh fish by 2050.
The Ocean Cleanup aims to cleanse 50% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 5 years. Founded by 23-year-old Boyan Slat, this project would use energy neutral floating screens to act as a filter as the currents move the debris around. Once the plastic has been trapped, it can be recycled into other products that the company would sell, the goal being that the entire concept will be self-sustaining. The downside? There are 5 garbage patches in the ocean… Is it possible to clean up the entire ocean before it’s too late?
 
Super Coral: Assisted Evolution From The Bottom Up
A number of scientists such as Ruth Gates in Hawaii and Verena Schoepf in Australia, are currently working on a bottom up solution: “super coral”. Coral reefs sustain 25% of all marine life. While 25% doesn’t sound like a lot - did you know that there are approximately 18,000 known species of fish? - one billion people rely on fish as their main source of protein. Knowing that, it is safe to say that coral reefs are vitally important. There have been three huge bleaching events in the past couple of years due to increased water temperatures (caused by the growth of CO2 emissions that the ocean absorbs). However, scientists are looking to the coral that has survived for answers. These corals with apparently stronger genes than others, will be experimented on under different water conditions and then bred together. Essentially scientists are trying to speed up evolution to try to save and regrow what coral we have left. While this concept is still in early stages, it is geared towards the future. What can be likened to genetic modification isn’t a miracle cure, however. Coral reefs are an efficient ecosystem with almost no waste as everything is “recycled” by means of symbiotic relationships with the life dependent on the reef. This could prove to be tricky but it is essential that we do whatever we can to protect that which we depend on for survival. 
 

Author : V.T.

SlowearTags.

Ocean  | pollution  | microplastics  | the ocean cleanup  | super corals  |

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