When we think of pollution in our oceans, many times we look to activities that take place directly in or around those bodies of water, but approximately 80% of all marine pollution comes from land based activities. From the consistent and constant use of plastic bags to the use of dangerous pesticides, we are slowly poisoning our environment. Much of this pollution leads to a process called eutrophication.
Eutrophication depletes the waters supply of oxygen which causes Algal blooms and the suffocation of marine life. Oil spills, fertilizer run-off from agriculture, improper or inadequate garbage disposal, poor sewage practices and the dumping of toxic chemicals into the environment are major causes of marine pollution.
Eutrophication is defined as a process whereby water bodies, such as lakes, estuaries, or slow-moving streams receive excess nutrients that stimulate excessive plant growth (algae, periphyton attached algae, and nuisance plants weeds). This enhanced plant growth, often called an algal bloom, reduces dissolved oxygen in the water when dead plant material decomposes and can cause other organisms to die.
Oil spills cause major damage to the marine environment. When we think of oil spills, we often think of giant tankers leaking their cargo in large quantities into the oceans. This is a part of the cause, but only 12% of oil pollution in marine environments comes from this source. According to a study done by the US National Research Council, 36% of oil pollution in our marine environments is caused by careless practices of disposing of oil on land an the consequent runoff from cities and industry.
Fertilizer run off from farms and lawns are major causes of eutrophocation. The use of these toxic pesticides on land far from the marine environment, flow into the water cycle and eventually make their way back to the seas. Causing algal blooms and suffocating marine life. There are alternatives to the use of dangerous pesticides, land owners could use organic pesticides that protect crops but don’t poison the environment. Run off from fertilizer has caused a few “dead zones”, in the Gulf of Mexico and the Baltic Sea, where the water in the ocean struggles to support any life at all.
The disposal of solid garbage is another cause of marine pollution. It seems that all solid waste eventually makes it’s way back into the ocean. Plastic bags, balloons, glass bottles, shoes, packaging material if not disposed of correctly, decomposes very slowly and can be mistaken for food by marine animals. Plastic bags have been found blocking the breathing passages and stomachs of whales, dolphins, seals, puffins and turtles. All because the waste was not disposed of properly.
Sewage disposal is another main cause of marine pollution. In many places around the world sewage flows into the oceans untreated. The Mediterranean Sea is particularly affected as roughly 80% of sewage produced in cities bordering it are disposing of their raw sewage in this manner. This practice not only causes eutrophocation but also leads to human disease and beach closings.
Finally the use of toxic chemicals affects almost every marine organism from the smallest of plankton to lobsters polar bears to whales. All are contaminated with man made chemicals dumped illegally or used legally all over the world. The use of chemicals to help your lawn grow greener or more even will run off into the water system and eventually touch our oceans and harm each natural organism it comes in contact with. So a little diligence on the part of mankind, these tragedies can be avoided.
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