As the sun rises on the vast and repetitive waters of the ocean, it unsuspectingly fails to unveil the abundance of life hidden beneath its waters.
Oceans are not only a source of sustenance and resources but also as a barrier against natural disasters and provide a means to help alleviate global warming.
Near the coastline, along the shores and within reach of our communities abound avariety of marine ecosystems. Some of these work in synergy to provide anatural habitat for marine life. Coral reefs, mangroves and seagrasses live inharmony exchanging mutual benefits and help contribute in the increase ofbiodiversity of marine life.
The ocean’s influence and the bounty of creations it beholds are felt by every living thing on Earth, no matter the distance from the coast. To discern the importance of these ecosystems is to save the Earth from catastrophe.
Corals are among the most diverse communities on this planet, often describe as “rainforests of the sea”. Reefs are found in clear, shallow waters throughout tropical regions across the globe. Corals are part of the organisms called Cnidarians, which also includes jellyfish, sea anemones and sea fans. Formed bythe calcium carbonate skeletons, the backbone of the reef is built by tinycoral animals that make up large coral colonies.
Reef-building corals contain symbiotic algae, called zooxanthellae, within their tissues.These single-cell algae have a mutualistic association with the coral hosts, a relationship that benefits both partners. The algae utilize carbon dioxide and nitrogen-based waste products released from corals. In return, the algae perform photosynthesis, producing sugars and amino acids which are transported to the corals in support of its nutritional needs.
Corals are important habitat and nursery grounds for fishes and invertebrates,including those of commercial and recreational value. They are closely associated with mangrove and seagrass communities, providing protection from waves and storm damage, preventing loss of life and property along shorelines.Corals reefs are considered as “medicinal cabinets” of the future, holding great promise for reconstructive bone surgery and pharmaceuticals including anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory drugs.
Mangroves are halophytic (plants growing in saline waters) species of tropical trees andshrubs. This diverse group has adapted to life in wet soils, saline habitats and periodic tidal submergence and for survival in oxygen-poor or anaerobic sediments through specialized aerial root structures that allows transport of atmospheric gases to the underground.
Mangroves are important part of estuarine food webs, producing large amounts of leaf litter, which are quickly decomposed by fungi and bacteria. This decomposed matter is referred to as detritus, which is flushed into the sanctuary by outgoing tides, providing food source for marine life including economically important shrimps, crabs and fishes. Mangroves are valuable nursery areas forfishes and invertebrates and serves as refuge to threatened endangered species.
Mangroves protect shorelines from damaging typhoons, waves and floods. Mangroves also prevent erosion by stabilizing sediments with their tangled root systems. They maintain water clarity, filtering pollutants and trapping sediments originating from land. Harvested for durable, water-resistant wood, mangroves have been used in building houses, boats, pilings and furnitures. Leaves have been used in tea, medicine, and as a livestock feed as substitute for tobacco in smoking.
Mangroves are being considered by some scientists to be used in reforestation projects. Aside from planting trees, planting along the coast will not only increase plant life but will also help promote marine biodiversity.
Seagrasses are flowering plants (angiosperms) that have adapted to live submerged inseawater. These unusual marine flowering plants are found on the bottom of protected bays, lagoons and other shallow coastal waters. They are attached to the bottom by thick roots and rhizomes which allow them to live in areas withwave action and strong currents. Seagrasses can form large underwater meadows, spreading through the extension of the rhizome that produces new plants along the edges of the meadow.
Seagrass ecosystems have very high primary productivity since they hold sediments, baffle currents, provide shade and concomitant temperature modification. It is this capacity which helps to support and provides nutrients and physical habitat toa variety of organisms which serve as nursery areas for a variety of fishes,mollusks and crustaceans. Seagrasses are biotic heavy-metal reservoirs, which has great significance in terms of stabilizing bottom sediments thus helping to reduce wave action on the shoreline.
Seagrasses are capable of extensive nutrient cycling and regeneration of material thatwould otherwise remain trapped in the bottom and unavailable for use. Seagrass beds are significant contributors to the productivity of inshore waters and support relatively large and diverse food webs and maintaining water clarity. Humans utilize seagrasses for a variety of traditional and contemporary uses.Traditional applications include basket weaving, compost, stuffing(mattresses), thatch for roofs, fibres for making fishing nets, and burning (to obtain salt and soda).
ENVIRONMENTALTHREATS AND PROTECTION
Coral reefs, mangroves and seagrasses are threatened by human activities throughout the world. Population growth and urban development currently ranks among the greatest threats to the ecological dynamics of marine ecosystems. Marine life is under pressure due to the basic need of human beings for food production, transportation, waste disposal, living space and recreation. The marine ecosystems are victims of dredging, trawling, filling, diking and water pollution from petroleum and industrial products. Marine habitats are also subject to various human disturbances such as sewage and litter pollution. Disturbances to the marine ecosystem may result in upsetting the ecological balance, as well as having indirect impacts on other nearby habitats and to the planet as a whole. To save the marine environment from disappearing, there are three environmental measures for better management of resources: preservation, conservation and production intensification. These will guarantee the continued survival of the creatures and organisms.
Recovery and growth of the corals, mangroves, and seagrasses takes many years, if not decades. If the damage is repeated, marine life may never completely recover. All living things on earth are interdependent with each other. We depend on the environment and the environment depends on our care and protection.
For better or for worse, we are bonded to our environment. We will always struggle with the reality, that if we will not find a way to maintain a peaceful coexistence with nature, then we do not deserve this place.A