Our oceans cover 71% of the planet and are fundamental to our survival and the diversity of habitats and species they support. Due to their sheer vastness, they have been considered as an inexhaustible resource leading to the collapse of many large fish populations, mammals and sea turtles. While intense fishing pressure is putting many species at risk of extinction, some of the methods deployed such as bottom trawls are also destroying vast areas of ocean habitat in the process.
Coastal habitats such as mangrove forests, coral reefs and kelp forests are particularly vulnerable to human activities due to the fact that over 40% of the world’s human population live along coastlines. These habitats represent the most productive and diverse regions of the oceans and not only support vital fish stocks but also provide ecosystem services such as the regulation of organic Decomposition and detoxification, supporting functions such as flood defence and recreational tourism, to name but a few.
Other factors such as pollution, coastal development and aquaculture are also adding to the concern. Activities such as these are causing huge problems for some of the world’s mangrove forests where vast areas of forest are cleared for shrimp farming. Pollution is also a major concern for reefs that thrive on sunlit, shallow waters. There are a number of over-lapping human stressors affecting our oceans and coastal regions at any one time. This presents us with clear challenges in reducing the impacts of human activities on marine habitats, but it’s fundamental that we accept those challenges and set about safe-guarding them for future generations.
Coral reefs are known as “the rainforests of the sea” as they are home to some of the most diverse forms of life on the planet. Although they occupy less than 1% of the ocean floor, they support over 25% of the world’s marine species. These fragile ecosystems evolved over 250 million years ago, but today are facing a catalogue of not only localized threats but global threats such as over-fishing, harmful fishing practices, pollution, irresponsible tourism and more recently, climate change. Find out more
Mangroves are a collection of salt-tolerant evergreen trees that line approximately 8% of the world’s tropical and sub-tropical coastal regions. They provide a habitat and shelter to many different fish, birds, invertebrate and mammal species and also protect coastlines from erosion acting as natural flood barriers. Furthermore, they filter pollutants from river run-off and thus protect marine habitats such as coral reefs from sedimentation. Over half the world’s mangroves have been destroyed over the last 20-30 years to make way for aquaculture (such as shrimp farming), agriculture and coastal development. Find out more
Sea Kelps are large brown seaweeds that attach to rocks in cold coastal waters and grow as dense forests. The long branching form of many kelps are almost tree like and offer a similar level of protection and shelter for many animal species as a terrestrial rain forest. These kelp habitats support rich marine communities but are under threat from a number of human activities. Pollution is the major concern due to runoff and nutrients affecting water quality and coastal over-fishing results in the colonisation of invasive species, such as sea urchins. Find out more
Seagrass Beds are the only fully marine flowering plants and the primary food source of Green Turtles as well as the sole food source for Dugongs and manatees. As a result anything that threatens Seagrass beds will by extension impact on these and many other animals. The biggest threat to the coastal areas where these beds grow is pollution from sediment and nutrient runoff from land, often agricultural. Find out more