What do the Antarctic and Florida Have in Common?

By February 17, 2011Ocean News

Celine Cousteau makes a compelling presentation on the Oceans and Marine Life at a lecture in Florida (video of the lecture is below). Although the video does not capture the lecture in its entirety, there are three take home messages in 5 minutes of video:

The Oceans Are Connected – The Ocean is a large salt water body that covers 71% of the Earth. At some point, Ocean water will makes its way around the world. It will take decades, but it will happen. This means the things we add to the Ocean such as pollution has a potential of making its way around the world. Marine Life use the Ocean as a medium to travel. Whales will migrate north and south throughout the year to find warm or cold water for new food or familiar breeding grounds. To put things into perspective, events that happen in the Ocean could affect regular events that occur hundreds of thousands of kilometers away. For instance, the west coast of Canada witnessed the lowest occurrence of salmon populations ever. Over 10 million salmon migrate up the many rivers along the coast of British Columbia every year to reproduce upstream; however, two years ago, only 3 million salmon showed up. A difference of at least 7 million fish will affect the population in the next year as there will be less offspring. There will also be less fishing, which affects the fishing community and the local economy. Why did the salmon not return two years ago? It’s still a mystery. Scientists do not really know where the salmon go when they leave the British Columbia rivers and venture out into the Ocean. It is possible that they go somewhere else due to bad water quality in some of the returning rivers. It is also possible that the fish get eaten by other animals such as orcas while at sea. It could be a combination of multiple factors. The point I am trying to make is we need to think about the connectivity of the Ocean as a way of working together on a global scale to conserve the Oceans.

Human Health Could Be Tied to the Ocean – We, as a human population, depend on the Ocean for survival as we need water to survive. The Ocean provides a means to replenish our water in the form of precipitation as it is a major factor in determining weather patterns. Water is out number 1 priority as a human race. More than 70% of our bodies is made up of water; therefore, intake of water is very important in our daily lives. However, the Ocean can be harmful to our water supply too. Our bodies cannot drink seawater as the salt content is too high for our bodies to consume. We rely on freshwater for survival by which much of it is derived from springs, headwaters (the water found where a river begins, groundwater, and rain. Contamination of these water has serious implications on the health of a community. I say this because nations, especially small island communities, are witnessing the contamination of there freshwater by Ocean water. Sea levels are increasing around these islands and contaminating the groundwater and well water. This is a serious issue for many island communities that are low lying (0-50 meters above sea level). We need to monitor and address this situation to help the health of human population around these islands. Also, contamination of freshwater drinking supplies by ocean water in island communities could be a precursor to similar events occurring around nations with larger land masses such as the European Union, Australia, Canada, and the US.

The Commonality Between the Antarctic and Florida – Okay, okay! I will address the question in the title of this post. Keystone species is the answer! A Keystone species is a species which is held in high regard by the human community. An example of a keystone species is a type of whale or sea turtles. The Antarctic is known for penguins while Florida is known for manatees. These two keystone species are the reason why marine ecologists, advocates, and other interested parties designate habitat for protection of the species. Protecting habitat allows for the keystone species to flourish as well as other species found in the same habitat. So think about this when a marine areas is designated as protected for a species: You are saving millions of species when one habitat is protected, even if it is geared towards one species.

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