Marine Habitat Loss
By: Ella Garbarsky
Habitat loss is a major issue facing the Earth today, and it is something that I feel is not talked about as frequently as it should be. Most people hear the phrase "habitat loss" and think about forests of trees being cut down or cities being built along what once were beautiful plains of grass that seemed to go on for eternity. We think about the animals in the Amazon Rainforest who have to find new homes often as more than 20% of the rainforest has been destroyed. This is terrible, I know, but habitat loss is happening in another place entirely that most people would never even guess. The ocean.
Habitat loss in the ocean occurs when marine life can no longer be sustained because of a lack of habitat. This is an issue that is impacting marine life across the globe and is also negatively affecting the Earth in multiple ways. But first, here are some of the reasons why there is so much habitat loss in Earth’s oceans.
Climate change is one of the biggest contributors to habitat loss, especially in the ocean. Due to the rising temperatures, glaciers and other ice structures are melting into the ocean, causing sea level rise. In turn, this is causing aquatic plants and animals to have to either relocate or perish. One of the reasons is that with the heightened sea level comes a lower concentration of oxygen, and without oxygen, there can be extremely little oceanic life. While the ocean is rising and heating up simultaneously, coral bleaching is becoming a more prominent issue. Without corals, there can be no coral reefs, and without coral reefs, more than 7,000 marine species will either relocate or unfortunately die without the proper ecosystem. Pollution, unsustainable fishing, a lack of governmental protection, and coastal development are just a few challenges facing marine life today. All of these things contribute to the loss of marine habitats, and it is only going to get worse from here unless people start to realize how big of a problem this really is.
The action of marine habitat loss has extreme effects on the Earth and even the human race. Lots of the world’s revenue comes from the oceans, as people consume tons of fish, shellfish, and sea plants each day. But with so much habitat loss, marine life is becoming less and less abundant, causing less and less revenue for the government and fewer job opportunities for people around the world. Extinction of bigger animals such as whales and sharks that are suffering from marine habitat loss might not seem like a major issue to most, but losing an animal at the top of a food chain in any ecosystem is catastrophic for the rest of the animals. Losing a whale or shark means that the animal right below it will become overpopulated and soon enough will no longer have any food to eat, as food sources are finite and the population may exceed the amount of available food. This cycle will continue until there are little to no animals left in that ecosystem, which is devastating. With the loss of marine habitats, humans are also losing the beauty that comes with seaside towns and when you are swimming in the ocean. There might no longer be pretty fish to look at while you swim or dolphins frolicking about. The sea will look dead and not at all like the abundance of life that humans would have expected to see otherwise.
Marine habitat loss sounds extremely dismal, and it seems like there is nothing anyone can do to stop it. However, there are a few things that one can do in order to save marine life for both the planet and the well-being of the human race. Environmental conservation policies can be made or advocated for by smaller groups of people who care about the environment and its future. Controlled fishing by both individuals and major companies is another thing that can be changed to ensure that no one fish population is being taken from the ocean too quickly and that not as much fishing equipment ends up in the ocean instead of back on the boat. Educating your friends and families on the threats facing the ocean today regarding not only habitat loss but the threats facing them in general is a great step towards helping the oceans and the environment. Adding limits to the amount of land that developers are allowed to expand on oceanic territory is just another precaution that people can take to ensure the future of these beautiful oceans.
Saving Earth’s oceans should be a priority when it comes to environmental issues, as the oceans play such a crucial role in not only animals’ lives but human lives as well. Together, individuals can work together to fight habitat loss within marine ecosystems.