Thursday, May 31, 2018

Aquatic Ecosystems: Diving Into the Future of Marine Preservation

Winning Scholarship Article for 2018

Thank you to all our applicants who applied. Since we value confidentiality we respecting the request of the winner and not revealing his or her name. Best of luck in the Fall.

-Carved Lake Art Team.

Somewhere deep within our consciousness, we know that we have the duty to protect our environment. Some of us may not know what “aquatic ecosystems” are, but we know that we have to preserve it. It’s just our nature as human beings.

But we don’t have to stay in the dark: we can always seek out new information about the world around us. Staying informed can help us fulfill our role as protectors of nature. We can create a better world for the future generation—not just for humans, but for all species!

Here, we’re not going to get too technical and attempt to be as scientific as possible. We just need a basic understanding of the current state of freshwater and marine life, so that we can understand its implications on the future of aquatic ecosystems. Let’s get started.

A Look at Aquatic Ecosystems

The internet defines an aquatic ecosystem as simply a “body of water” wherein “communities of organisms that are dependent on each other” live and thrive. There are two main types of aquatic ecosystems: marine and freshwater.

In a nutshell, we can say that marine ecosystems cover 71 percent of the Earth’s surface, containing approximately 97 percent of the planet’s water. On the other hand, freshwater ecosystems cover 0.78 percent of the Earth’s surface and inhabit 0.009 percent of its total water. Freshwater ecosystems contain 41 percent of the world’s known fish species.

These are some of the facts you can learn by just browsing the internet and doing your research about aquatic ecosystems. And if you simply look around or watch television, you’ll know that these bodies of water face numerous challenges because of various factors such as climate change, pollution, and even exploitation of marine resources.

Now that we know the basics of our topic, we can talk about the current state of our aquatic ecosystems.

The State of Marine Life: A Silver Lining

Let’s start off with a little message of hope. Marine ecosystems are seemingly “preparing for climate change”. Coral reefs and kelp forests have been found to be more resilient than we think. This is wonderful news, considering all the terrible things that damage our environment on a daily basis.

While climate change may still be ravaging our marine ecosystems, studies show that there are certain examples of sea life that are withstanding its effects. Perhaps we should give these ecosystems more credit for their resilience. According to a survey from a report published in the journal BioScience, 80 percent of the researchers polled have witnessed instances of resilience within ecosystems that are experiencing climatic disturbances.

We can use this knowledge to identify the factors that contribute to this resilience. Hopefully, we can use this data in the future to promote more resilient and diverse ecosystems.

Do keep in mind that this does not render climatic change unimportant. This positive tone should not be misinterpreted—we should still take global warming very seriously. We can only take this for what it is: a ray of hope; a silver lining.

The State of Marine Life: Current Challenges

Aquatic ecosystems still face a lot of challenges, many of which are man made. Because of climate change, heat waves are more common, for example. And if heat waves are deadly for us, it is even more dangerous for marine life.

Heat waves are unusually warm periods that can also occur in the ocean, lasting for weeks or months. It can kill off kelp forests and corals. Climate change is warming ocean waters. Extra exposure can have negative effects on the health of an ecosystem.

Water pollution is another problem that needs to be addressed. It comes as a result of natural and unnatural compounds being added to a body of water. Many animals and plants are susceptible to the effects of water pollution.

Amphibian populations, for instance, are particularly sensitive to pollution because they absorb chemicals in the water through their skins.

Younger animals have a greater sensitivity to these chemical compounds because they have yet to mature physically.

The Future of Marine Preservation: What Could Be Done?

Global warming and illegal human activities (such as dynamite fishing) contribute to the destruction of aquatic ecosystems. But because humans are responsible for this damage, we must also step up and fix it. Efforts are being made to preserve marine and freshwater ecosystems—not only to protect it, but improve its condition.

Long term observations involving water transparency can help provide even more information regarding the extent of damage and what can be done.

Beyond seeking out more information, there are measures being observed in order to actively participate in the rehabilitation of aquatic ecosystems. Marine protected areas are being enforced in order to restrict invasive human activities, or at least limit them.

Sport fishing vessels are being busted for illegal fishing within protected areas.

Creating these marine protected areas is extremely helpful, but it is not enough without enforcement. People must be educated so that they can do their part in preserving these ecosystems, or at least avoid causing further damage.

This is another ray of hope for our beloved environment. Efforts are always being made in the name of protecting marine and freshwater ecosystems—but there’s still a long way to go. As regular individuals, we can’t go out there and enforce marine protected areas by ourselves, but we can still do our part by preventing pollution and encouraging others to do the same.

We can take part in local cleanups if we want to take part in restoring these beautiful aquatic ecosystems. There’s no reason to feel completely helpless. We all live in this world, and we must do our part to protect it.

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