Marine and Coastal Ecosystem

Mains Marks Booster     5th August 2023        
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Introduction

  • Marine ecosystems are aquatic environments with high dissolved salt concentrations, such as those found in or near the ocean. Marine ecosystems are defined by their unique biotic (living) and abiotic (nonliving) components.
  • Biotic components: Plants, animals, and bacteria
  • Abiotic components: quantity of sunlight in the environment, the amount of oxygen and nutrients dissolved in the water, proximity to land, depth, and temperature.
  • Coastal ecosystems occur where land meets sea and contain a varied range of habitat types such as mangroves, coral reefs, seagrass beds, estuaries and lagoons, backwaters, and so on. 

Types of marine coastal ecosystem

  • Estuaries: These are coastal zones where oceans and rivers meet, allowing nutrients and salts to mix. These areas are highly productive and support various life forms.
  • Estuaries have historically supported human communities and activities like fishing, shipping, and transportation due to their location near the ocean's boundary.
  • Salt marshes: These are the zones where oceans and land meet, are rich in nutrients from sediment. They are flooded by high tides, causing soil to be wet and salty, resulting in low oxygen and decomposing matter. These ecosystems are dominated by low-growing shrubs and grasses.
  • Mangrove forest: Mangrove forests, located in tropical regions, are submerged in ocean water, providing habitat for various species. Their root systems filter out salt and oxygen, while the canopy houses birds and other animals. Mangroves also serve as nesting sites for birds.
  • Coral Reefs: Coral reefs, euphotic-zone ecosystems in tropical seas, are built from exoskeletons secreted by coral polyps. These diverse ecosystems host sponges, crustaceans, mollusks, fish, turtles, sharks, dolphins, and other creatures, accounting for a quarter of all ocean species. 

Significance

  • Marine ecosystems offer numerous benefits to the natural world and humans, including climate regulation, water cycle maintenance, biodiversity conservation, food and energy resources, and recreation and tourism opportunities.
  • Further it also supports billions of dollars in economic activities like fisheries, aquaculture, offshore oil and gas, and trade. These ecosystem services can be categorized into supporting, provisioning, regulating, and cultural services. 

Threats

  • Human Exploitation: Coastal marine ecosystems face population pressures, with 40% of the world living within 100 km. Overfishing and global fisheries landings cause biodiversity decline, impacting large species and narrow geographic ranges, contributing to climate change.
  • Marine Pollution: Marine pollution from a variety of causes, such as industrial discharge, agricultural runoff, sewage, oil spills, and marine debris, poses a serious danger to coastal ecosystems. Contaminants in the water and sediments can build, compromising the health and reproductive success of marine creatures.
  • Climate Change: Rising sea temperatures, ocean acidification, and sea-level rise all pose substantial challenges to marine coastal ecosystems as a result of climate change. Coral bleaching, lower calcification rates in shell-building creatures, changed ocean currents, and shifts in species distribution can all result from these changes.
  • Invasive Species: Non-native species introduced by ballast water discharge, aquaculture, and shipping operations can have a negative impact on coastal ecosystems. Invasive species have the potential to outcompete native species, change habitat structure, and disrupt ecosystem function. 

Way forward

  • The establishment of a network of well-managed marine protected areas can aid in the protection of vital coastal ecosystems and the recovery of fragile species.
  • By enacting rules, advocating eco-friendly designs, and incorporating nature-based solutions such as green infrastructure and living shorelines, sustainable coastal development reduces habitat damage and environmental consequences.
  • Climate change mitigation is critical for the long-term health of marine coastal ecosystems. This includes lowering greenhouse gas emissions by switching to renewable energy, boosting energy efficiency, and supporting international climate change accords.
  • Encouraging collaboration among governments, coastal communities, researchers, non-governmental organizations, and other stakeholders in order to establish integrated coastal management plans, and promoting effective governance of marine coastal ecosystems. 

Marine Deposits

  • Sources of Marine Deposits: Marine deposits originate from various sources, including sediments brought by rivers, weathering due to wave actions, wind-blown dust, submarine erosion, marine life decomposition, extraterrestrial sources (meteorites), and volcanic activities. 
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