World, Environment

Only healthy ocean can help keep climate balanced, feed growing population: Expert

World Oceans Day's theme this year highlights life, livelihoods that oceans sustain amid COVID-19 pandemic

Burak Bir   | 08.06.2021
Only healthy ocean can help keep climate balanced, feed growing population: Expert


Facing various threats, particularly climate change, oceans play crucial roles in sustaining the planet as they feed a growing population, support economic development, and protect habitats.

Covering approximately 70% of Earth's surface and 90% of the biosphere, oceans are under threat from climate change-related warming and acidification that directly affect human life as well as many ecosystem services.

World Oceans Day is celebrated annually on June 8 to raise awareness about the importance of the world's oceans and efforts to improve "the deep" since 1992, following the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

In 2008, the UN General Assembly decided that June 8 would be designated as "World Oceans Day" as of 2009.

This year's theme is "The Ocean: Life and Livelihoods," which highlights the life and livelihood that the oceans sustain amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"If managed effectively, the ocean can help keep our climate in balance, feed a growing population, support economic development, and protect habitats and treasured wildlife," Richard Leck, the head of oceans at World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Australia, told Anadolu Agency.

However, he warned that only a "healthy ocean" can play those essential roles.

Stressing the role of oceans against climate change, Leck said they are crucial for mitigation, adaptation, and resilience building.

On "carbon sequestration," which means capturing and storing carbon, he underlined that seagrass, mangroves and kelp forests among other ecosystems provide these services as examples of ocean ecosystems.

"In addition, ecosystems such as mangroves and coral reefs protect people against the effects of climate change by reducing wave energy, storm surges, and shoreline erosion," he added.

Although oceans have many of the solution potentials to respond to climate change, they are exposed to increasing climate change impacts, Leck said.

"These impacts create a feedback loop which negatively affects the oceans' abilities to cope with the onslaught of emissions and mismanagement."

'Warming oceans cause significant issues for coastal communities'

In response to a question on the effects of climate change on people who live on low-lying islands and in coastal regions, Leck pointed out the extreme weather events caused by climate change such as cyclones as negative impacts.

"As oceans warm, many of the ecosystems that underpin healthy and productive fish stocks will decline – such as coral reefs or mangroves – causing significant issues for local communities," he said, referring to the economic problems, "as coastal communities often highly dependent on their local marine environment for their regular source of protein and income from fishing."

Describing oceans as "the cornerstone of life on Earth," Leck stressed that marine environments must be protected since they are crucial in sustaining everyday life.

The WWF will issue its report titled Blueprint for a Living Planet: Four Principles for Integrated Ocean-Climate Strategies on World Ocean Day. Leck said principles in the report will guide integrated plans to protect the ocean.

Four principles of the report are "raising ambition and urgently delivering stronger and sustained mitigation and adaptation actions, making nature a key part of the solution, putting people at the center, and joining up the climate and ocean finance agendas,” he said.

​​​​​​World Oceans Day is observed virtually this year as well due to the coronavirus pandemic. The 2021 theme is relevant in the lead-up to the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, according to the UN Environment Program (UNEP).

"The purpose of the Day is to inform the public of the impact of human actions on the ocean, develop a worldwide movement of citizens for the ocean, and mobilize and unite the world's population on a project for the sustainable management of the world's oceans," the UNEP said on its website.

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