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Ocean Life and the Impact Of Humans. An overview of the Gulf of Mexico - Research Paper Example

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Oceans are important aquatic habitats for both marine fauna and flora. The wide diversity of life in these crucial habitats plays important environmental and economic roles. Marine life is also a major component of various natural processes including hydrological and carbon cycles…
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Ocean Life and the Impact Of Humans. An overview of the Gulf of Mexico
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Download file to see previous pages However, due to the crucial economic importance of aquatic resources, there has been an upsurge of human activities including tourism, mining, fishing and other industries in these habitats. These human activities have regrettably diminished ocean life through unsustainable practices such as overexploitation of the resources and introduction of pollutants. This paper explores ocean life in the Gulf of Mexico, with special focus on the effects of human activities on the diversity and conservation measures in the region. An overview of the Gulf of Mexico The Gulf of Mexico is one of the most important oceanic habitats in Northern America and has one of the richest aquatic diversity in the world. In addition, it has rich reserves of petroleum deposits making it one of the biggest oil producing regions in the world. The rich ecological diversity offers numerous social and economic opportunities, including tourism, navigation, recreation and mining of petroleum and gas that contribute significantly to the gross domestic product of the United States and Mexico. The entire Mexican gulf covers an area of about 600,000 squares miles, extending from the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico to Florida Keys in the United States (Weber, Townsend and Bierce, 1992). A recent biological survey of the biodiversity in the Gulf of Mexico undertaken by GMP (2010) recorded 15,419 species that belong to 40 phyla. The marine life ranges from single cellular organisms to plants, seaweeds and fungi, in addition to a wide variety of vertebrate and invertebrates animals. The rich biodiversity is distributed across three major habitats, including the shoreline or the coast, the shallow sea and the open or deep ocean. The coastal region consists of important habitats, including beaches, sand dunes, estuaries, mangrove swamps, salt marshes and tidal flats. The gulf of Mexico coastline offers a wide range of aquatic plants including the mangrove, diverse varieties of plants and algae including turtle, manatee, shoal and widgeon grasses in addition to sargassum sea weeds. The coastline forms an important habitat for aquatic near shore animals, including corals, sea turtles, dolphins and various species of whales, fish and sharks (GMP, 2010). NOAA (2006) classifies species of animals found in the Gulf of Mexico according to the water depths that they mostly occur. From this classification, there are near shore and offshore animals. The habitat of near shore animals ranges from the estuarine waters to the edge of continental shelf and it covers a distance of less than 200 meters from the shelf edge. Offshore animals occupy deep waters that lie beyond 200 meters from the continental shelf. However, this animal distribution varies depending on the seasons because of migration between these areas for various reasons including reproduction and depending on food availability, water temperatures and strength of ocean currents (NOAA, 2006). The aquatic plants and animals in the Gulf of Mexico have established important biological relationships in the ecosystem. Aquatic plants and algae are the primary food producers in the marine ecosystem providing sustenance for a wide variety of marine animals (Allan and David 2007). For instance, turtle grass in the Gulf of Mexico is common source of food to sea turtles. Through photosynthesis, the aquatic plants and algae produces oxygen that dissolves in water. The dissolved oxygen is used for respiration by the wide diversity aquatic animals in the gulf. In addition, anaerobic bacteria use the dissolved oxygen in the decomposition of organic matter in the water bodies. Similarly, aquatic animals provide the plants with carbon dioxide as a by-product of respiration ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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