Marine Life

 

U.S. National Park Service (USNPS)

The dazzling vibrancy of coral reefs, the fleeting streaks of color as shorebirds alight, flying up and above the waves, the sight of young sea turtles flecked with granules of sand, clambering for open ocean, the bioluminescence of extraordinary organisms churning in deep sea; When we catch glimpses of the myriad life dotting the ocean’s blue expanse, we are often struck by its beauty. But marine life is not only vibrant; it is vital.

Wipeter/CC BY-SA

So much as the visible compels us, it is the invisible that sustains us. Marine microbes, which drive carbon sequestration in the oceans, comprise more than 98% of ocean biomass. Floating in delicate glass walls of Silica, diatoms, a type of phytoplankton, produce one fifth of the air we breathe. Collectively, phytoplankton are responsible for every other breath we take. These tiny organisms also form the basis of marine foods webs that support Earth’s largest animal, the blue whale.

U.S. National Park Service (USNPS)

Kendall Jeffrys

Larger species also support marine ecosystems. Green sea turtles, for example, foster healthy seagrass meadows and coral reefs, critical habitats for commercial fish species that billions depend upon for their livelihoods or food security. Whales act as ecosystem engineers, recycling nutrients and increasing ocean productivity. As top predators, sharks are good indicators of ocean health and keep marine food webs in balance. These are just a few examples of the roles marine species play on the greater stage of life.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Federal protection of endangered species has allowed some marine life to come back from dramatic declines: 77% of marine mammals and sea turtles listed under the Endangered Species Act are recovering in population size. In 2016, humpback whales had recovered so much that most populations were taken off the endangered species list. Marine mammals not listed as endangered are still protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Despite recovery of some species, many forms of life, such as shore birds, are still facing rapid decline. A confluence of climatic threats to the ocean pushes marine life to a precarious existence. The ocean is 30% more acidic than it was before industrialization. As the ocean absorbs carbon from the atmosphere, it forms carbonic acid which dissolves calcium carbonate structures of corals, mussels, clams, oysters, and starfish. The ocean is not only acidifying but also gasping for air: over the past 50 years, the volume of ocean with no oxygen has quadrupled. Oxygen is consumed by algal blooms spurred by warming temperatures and nutrient overload from sewage and agricultural run-off spilling from land into our seas.
We come from life in the ocean — the chemistry of our bodies is testament to that past. As Rachel Carson wrote in The Sea Around Us,

“Fish, amphibian, and reptile, warm-blooded bird and mammal — each of us carries in our veins a salty stream in which the elements sodium, potassium, and calcium are combined in almost the same proportions as in sea water.”

The makeup of our atoms is not unlike that of the sea. Without ever splashing our feet into its salty waters, we all connect to the ocean in this way.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)

Some may know the ocean personally, some may know it through photos, art, or the work of marine scientists such as Rachel Carson, whose book Under the Sea-Wind transforms an imagination of ocean life into a vivid reality. The RCC seeks to continue to bring the ocean to life, highlighting our interconnectedness with the sea and our need to protect it.

Latest News About
Marine Life

Dolphins Use New York Harbor as a Feeding Ground, Study Finds
When you think of the New York Harbor, you might imagine boats, skyscrapers, a noisy traffic on the nearby streets of NYC. What you may not expect to find are dolphins. But according to a newly released study from Wildlife Conservation Society, the New York Harbor is a popular feeding ground for bottlenose dolphins from spring through fall.

Researchers placed underwater listening devices in six separate locations around Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and New Jersey. They monitored the activity between April and October from 2018 to 2020. The dolphins were heard clicking rapidly, called “foraging buzzes,” revealing extensive feeding activity. Read more


Officials: Florida manatees eat ‘every scrap’ in food trial
One thing wildlife officials have learned during the winter experimental feeding program to help manatees avoid starvation is that if you feed them, they will come.

Manatees have eaten virtually all of the estimated 160,000 pounds (72,500 kilograms) of lettuce provided at a warm-water power plant site where manatees typically congregate during cold months, officials said Wednesday during a virtual news conference. Read more


Warming Ocean Leaves No Safe Havens for Coral Reefs
New research finds coral refugia, where reefs are protected from global warming by cool local currents, are disappearing faster than expected.

In the race to save at least some remnants of the world’s coral reefs, a new study shows only one thing really matters—capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Even at only that level of warming, more than 99 percent of areas previously seen as potentially safe havens for coral will disappear. Warming of 2 degrees C would wipe out all the “reef refugia” where corals might survive relentlessly warming oceans. Read more


A Million Acres of ‘Priceless’ Marshes: At Risk from Rising Tides?
Fins surfaced in the tidal creek, drawing Matt Wright’s attention away from the boat in the growing dusk.

The 48-year-old Illinois resident was on his first tour of a salt marsh when dolphins appeared around the vessel, gently swimming through the estuary as shadows advanced across the tideland. Read more


Feds propose endangered species protections for turtle found only in Louisiana and Mississippi
Announcement comes weeks after similar proposal for alligator snapping turtles

Federal wildlife managers are proposing endangered species protections for a rare freshwater turtle found only in Louisiana and Mississippi. Read more


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