30 reasons to be grateful for the ocean

It’s the end of another National Oceans Month. And, on this most lovely of lovely days I’d like to Speak Up For Blue and name 30 reasons to be grateful for the ocean! (OK, and it just so happens to be this Beach Chair Scientist’s birthday)

In no particular order, here are some reasons to appreciate the ocean (and all its glorious ecosystems):

Estuaries (Although the course may change sometimes, rivers always reach the sea. – Led Zeppelin)

  • Nursery grounds for many of the commercially important fish that live in the sea.
  • Make up the public infrastructure that are the harbors and ports used for shipping, transportation, and industry.
  • Serve as a filter for sediments, nutrients, and other pollutants that come from upstream.
  • Coastal areas are home to over half the U.S. population.
  • Mangroves and other estuarine ecosystems are amazing playgrounds and feeding grounds for many wading birds.
  • The smell of low tide!

Intertidal Zone (including littoral zone)

  • Home to the tides going in and out. Where else can we appreciate the ebb and flow of life?
  • This is home to many bivalve species that love to burrow under the muck.
  • We can investigate the wrack line and find many treasures that have washed ashore.
  • Place where my favorite animal, the Atlantic horseshoe crab, likes to come to mate during the full and new moons in May and June.
  • A perfect spot to jump waves with little ones!
  • Home to the lovely and rhythmic sound of waves lapping.

Coral Reefs (Pollution, overfishing, and overuse have put many of our unique reefs at risk. Their disappearance would destroy the habitat of countless species. It would unravel the web of marine life that holds the potential for new chemicals, new medicines, unlocking new mysteries. It would have a devastating effect on the coastal communities from Cairns to Key West, Florida — communities whose livelihood depends upon the reefs. – Former President Bill Clinton.)

  • Support a great diversity of species.
  • Yield compounds that are very important in the medical field (have been used in the treatment of cancer, HIV, cardiovascular diseases, ulcers, and other ailments).
  • Protect shorelines erosion.
  • Center of many country’s tourism income.
  • Home to a myriad of colors and patterns!

Pelagic Zone, Euphotic Zone (Open ocean)

  • The only place large enough for the big blue whale to swim and play.
  • The only place large enough for a blue fin tuna to pick up enough speed.
  • Home to a lot of phytoplankton that helps support oxygen production.
  • Home to the Sargasso Sea the only place special enough for the American eel to breed.
  • Home to peace and solitude.
  • A perfect spot to become humble.

Mesopelagic Zone, Twilight Zone (Open ocean bathyal zone)

  • Home to the many creature with the beautiful twinklings of bioluminescence.
  • Only place deep enough for sperm whales to dive down and grab some food.
  • Home to many elusive squid species.

Deep Sea (Abyssal)

Polar Regions

  • Home to the polar bear (did you know their fur isn’t white? It is actually clear but appears white since it is reflected in the sunlight).
  • Important breeding and mating areas for many migratory species (including the red knot).

And, without it we’d be nothing. Oceans cover about 70% of the earth’s surface, and we rely on it economically, environmentally, and scientifically.

Obviously this is a very personal list and it could go on and on forever. I am looking forward to hearing your reasons to be grateful to the ocean and hope we can get to 100 by the end of the year!

Test your knowledge: National Ocean Science Bowl biology

Here are some more sample questions from the Consortium for Ocean Leadership‘s popular National Ocean Science Bowl (NOSB). These questions come from the Biology section.

Good luck!

1) Northern elephant seals come ashore during the spring and summer to do what? a) Mate b) Eat c) Give birth d) Shed their fur

2) The habitat of blue whales, tunas and swordfishes is best described as: a) Benthic b) Littoral c) Estuarine d) Pelagic

3) Intensive aquaculture of which of the following organisms has contributed to loss of mangroves around the world? a) Tilapia b) Cod c) Salmon d) Shrimp

4) Lophelia (LO-fee-lee-ua) coral reefs in the North Atlantic are being primarily damaged by: a) Pfiesteria b) Poisoning c) Rising temperatures d) Trawling