The Impacts of Marine Environmental Pollution
Marine environmental pollution is a wide-ranging and growing problem that harms ocean and sea life. It also affects people’s health and well-being. There are many types of pollution, including chemicals from agricultural and industrial wastes and plastics – most of which don’t biodegrade. The resulting toxic chemicals can cause disease, death and economic damage.
Oil is one of the most common pollutants that enter the ocean and coastal waters. It is released from pipelines, ships and other vessels as a result of spills, explosions, accidents, technical defects and negligence.
Oil can also be introduced into the marine environmental pollution by other means, such as water runoff from farms, construction sites and streets. In addition, septic tanks, sewage systems and motor vehicle engines are all potential sources of pollution that run off into the sea.
Animals such as seabirds, mammals, and fish are particularly vulnerable to oil spills. Their fur and feathers are destroyed by the substance, which reduces their insulating abilities. They can also be poisoned by the oil. Changes in their reproduction and growth rates may also occur.
Marine environmental pollution is caused by a variety of factors. Some of these include sewage, oil from cars, and plastic waste. In the United States, over eight million metric tons of plastic debris end up in the ocean each year. This debris includes items like shopping bags, cigarette butts, bottle caps and food wrappers.
Landslides and other natural disasters also create debris. Debris can include broken rocks, tree trunks and other items that are washed into rivers or streams. Military debris refers to equipment and weapons left behind after a conflict. These items can be very dangerous to humans and wildlife.
Space debris is another form of debris that affects Earth. This can be the result of accidents or discarded products in low and orbital orbits. It is a growing problem as more and more space programs leave legacies of launches, explosions, repairs and discards. These orbiting fragments are a hazard to future space exploration and human activities.
The ocean has been absorbing the excess heat from carbon dioxide that humans have dumped into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution. But it does that at its own peril as climate change makes the seas inhospitable to many living organisms, disrupts ocean currents, and alters food webs on which humanity depends.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has reported that marine heatwaves have doubled in frequency and duration and are more intense and widespread. They also cause significant changes in the geographic distribution of species.
Scientists are concerned that ocean warming and acidification will cause competition among coral reefs and algae for essential nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, which are vital to life in the sea.
The ocean is also the primary source of dissolved oxygen. However, human activities, such as fishing, pollution, and nutrient discharges, cause more microbial consumption of oxygen than replenishment. This causes deoxygenation, which is a major threat to marine biodiversity and a factor contributing to ocean dead zones.
A major study by the IUCN has found that oxygen depletion has risen at an alarming rate over the last 50 years, with dead zones quadrupling in size. Experts say the problem is largely due to climate change, but pollution from agricultural runoff and sewage also accounts for a large percentage of the global loss of oxygen in oceans and coastal waters.
The biggest study of its kind finds that there are at least 700 areas of the ocean where oxygen is dangerously low, compared to 45 in the 1960s. It’s threatening species, including tuna, marlin and sharks.
Oxygen depletion is caused by a variety of factors, including industrial point sources such as end-of-pipe discharges, leakage from natural gas lines, process valves and more. These release chemicals that require oxygen for decomposition, such as methane, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide and hydrogen sulfide.
The ocean is expected to lose about 3-4 per cent of its oxygen by 2100, according to the report. That could wreak havoc on marine ecosystems already struggling with warmer water and acidification and put many fish species at risk of extinction.