Loss of Marine Habitat
Habitat destruction occurs when the conditions necessary for plants and animals to survive are significantly compromised or eliminated. Most areas of the world's oceans are experiencing habitat loss.
With 80% of the world’s population living within 100km of the ocean and three-quarters of the world's megacities located on the ocean, coastal areas have suffered disproportionately and primarily from manmade stresses. Habitat loss here has far-reaching impacts on the entire ocean's biodiversity. These critical areas, which include estuaries, swamps, marshes, and wetlands, serve as breeding grounds or nurseries for nearly all marine species.
Types of Marine Habitat:
Coral reefs occupy less than 1% of the sea-bed but are home to 25% of all marine life. They are some of the most productive habitats on the planet but are both extremely fragile and slow growing. A number of impacts such as climate change, destructive fishing, pollution etc, can cause irreparable damage to coral reefs, which then leaves a whole host of plants and animals without a habitat to live and breed in. More on Coral Reefs
Seagrasses are a flowering plant which can live in the sea. Lots of animals rely on these areas for food and shelter and they are a main food source for endangered manatees and sea turtles. It is estimated that 29% of seagrass beds have been lost in the last century because of poor water quality (e.g. chemical run off from farms), coastal development and climate change. They occupy 0.1% of the ocean but are thought to hold 11% of the oceans’ carbon which helps regulate our climate.
Mangrove trees are specially adapted to live in salty water and provide a natural barrier between the land and sea in tropical areas. Their roots stabilise the soil and prevent erosion of coastal areas. They provide important nursing grounds for many fish species and other animals. They are critical for coastal protections from storms, typhoons and tsunamis. Around 38% of the world’s mangrove forests have been destroyed in the last few decades to make way for shrimp farms. More on Mangroves
Conserving Marine Habitats
Although habitat destruction has been increasing for many years, the protection of marine habitats has only recently become an issue of critical importance to conservation efforts. As human population continues to rise, so will our use of the oceans and coastal areas. Ongoing efforts to safeguard ocean habitats include the creation of marine reserves where development is curtailed and fishing is prohibited. Laws banning the dumping of sewage and chemicals into the ocean and policies that foster better stewardship of wetlands are having positive effects. But scientists agree that drastic measures will be needed to avert the ocean crises being created by climate change.