How Global Plastic Pollution Affects our Marine Ecosystems

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How Global Plastic Pollution Affects our Marine Ecosystems

Humans have made the oceans and seas a dumping site where waste materials from ships, industries, and sewage plants are being thrown wantonly / Photo by Richard Whitcombe via 123RF

 

For the past decades, marine wildlife have faced dangers to their natural habitat, such as overfishing, hunting, and pollution. A consistent increase in the level of pollutants has plagued bodies of water across the globe. Studies have shown that 80% of marine pollution actually came from the land and from most products of various human activities. Unfortunately, with the number of conservation efforts to protect the ocean and the life forms living there, there is still a long journey to mitigate the effects of marine pollution.

A recent study conducted by the researchers from the United Kingdom and Norway showed that ocean plastic pollution costs the planet $2.5 billion every year. Aside from that, they found out that there's an annual eight million tons of plastic that enter our oceans. The study, which was published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin, had analyzed a number of ways in which plastic pollution destroys or damages natural resources. 

The researchers also looked at the ways in which marine life benefit the planet. Some of the benefits are detoxification, carbon storage, and food supply for billions of people. However, it also stated that if these benefits are threatened by plastic pollution, it "has the potential to significantly impact the well-being of humans across the globe owing to the loss of food security, livelihood, income, and good health."

According to an article by the Tree Hugger, the 1% to 5% decrease in the benefits that humans get from the oceans is due to plastics. In fact, $33,000 per ton is being reduced in our environmental value every year because of it. In an interview, lead study author Dr. Nicola Beaumont said, "Our calculations are a first stab at ‘putting a price on plastic.’ We know we have to do more research to refine, but we are convinced that already they are an underestimate of the real costs to global human society."

 

The Ocean is Dying

There are several main factors that have been threatening marine life for quite some time now. For instance, ocean dumping has polluted our water bodies to a great extent. Humans have made the oceans and seas a dumping site wherein waste materials from ships, industries, and sewage plants are being thrown wantonly. In fact, mining companies cause 220 million tons of hazardous waste in the water bodies every year, and there are about two-thirds of marine life that are under threat from the chemicals humans use every day, including household cleaners. 

Additionally, land runoff is one of the major sources of ocean pollution, which we get from both agricultural land carrying particles and soil mixed with phosphorus, nitrogen, carbon, and minerals. This threatens turtles, fish, and shrimp. Dredging is also a major concern, where sediments and debris are removed underwater. This activity alters the predisposed composition of the soil, which can destroy organisms' habitats. 

There's an annual eight million tons of plastic that enter our oceans / Photo by Sawitree Pamee via 123RF

 

A study published in the journal Current Biology showed that the world's oceans are becoming more unrecognizable very fast, as impacts of human activities threaten our marine environment. According to an article by the Global Citizen, only 13% of oceans around the world have intact marine ecosystems. The rest have been plundered and degraded. As a result, there are more likely to be vulnerable to being exploited. 

In an interview, Kendall Jones, lead author of the report, said, “We were astonished by just how little marine wilderness remains. The ocean is immense, covering over 70% of our planet, but we’ve managed to significantly impact almost all of this vast ecosystem." Global warming caused by climate change had affected our planet in several ways. For instance, it can unleash dangerous pathogens, kill coral reefs, affect how animals reproduce, change how fish species migrate, and cause global ocean temperatures to rise. 

 

How Humans Can Save Marine Life

Humans play a major role in keeping our environment safe for animals. It's our responsibility to save these life forms from destruction and threats that are man-inflicted. According to National Geographic, there are several ways that people can save the ocean. First, humans should be conscious of using energy anywhere they go. They can do this by not using their cars more often, taking the stairs, or avoiding oversetting electrical appliances. 

It would also be helpful if people choose seafood that is healthy and sustainable. The demand for fishes all over the world has caused a rapid decrease in global fish populations. People should also limit their use of plastic because, most probably, it will end up as ocean debris that can destroy habitats and kill millions of marine animals. 

Additionally, educating ourselves about oceans and marine life is essential in knowing how to save the marine ecosystem. Humans can influence their community by taking care of bodies of water even in little ways. Since there are a lot of organizations and institutions that fight for our oceans, it would really be a great help to support their cause. For instance, consider volunteering for hands-on work or advocacy to marine life preservation or giving financial support. 

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