World Oceans Day: get united to protect precious waterbodies

TEHRAN, Jun. 09 (MNA) – Oceans are valuable water bodies in terms of food supply and climate issues, covering 71 percent of the planet's surface equaling 361 million square kilometers, but they, like other biological components on the planet, have been affected severely due to oxygen depleting factors.

The seas and oceans are known to be home to about 230,000 species of animals, although most of the depths of the oceans have not yet been discovered, and it is estimated that there are more than two million aquatic species.

However, scientists say that the dead zones, water bodies that do not have sufficient oxygen levels in order to support most marine life, has quadrupled since 1950 and that very low-oxygen areas in coastal waters have increased 10 times.

A research team from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has found that since the mid-twentieth century, the concentration of oxygen in the oceans and coastal waters has been steadily declining and is now expanding. These areas have reached millions of square kilometers and the rivers and other coastal waters have been severely affected by oxygen reduction.

There are now 500 very low oxygen or dead zones in the world's coastal areas, while in 1950 the number of these areas was about 50, and the world's oceans have lost about two percent of their 77 trillion tons of oxygen since 1950.

According to the data, research shows that the expansion of these areas is a consequence of climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, and pollutants from agricultural and sewage.

Due to the importance of protecting the seas and oceans, Oceans Day was first declared as June 8th, 1992 in Rio de Janeiro at the Global Forum, a parallel event at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED).

The Declaration was inspired by an event organized on that day by the Oceans Institute of Canada and supported by the Canadian Government. In 2008, led by Canada, the General Assembly resolved that June 8th would be designated by the United Nations as “World Oceans Day”.

In the interim, observation of Oceans Day had broadened and deepened. The need and scope for this were reflected in the broad range of concerns expressed in 2008 by the UN Secretary-General, including implementation of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, maritime space, international shipping, maritime security, marine science and technology, marine biological diversity, the marine environment and sustainable development, climate change, and regional and international cooperation.

In Iran, this day is also celebrated, and considering that Iran is a sea-oriented country and is bounded on the north and south by the Caspian Sea, the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman, so it is very important to pay attention to marine basins. The National Institute for Oceanography and Atmospheric Science has implemented a variety of programs in this area.

Persian Gulf, Sea of Oman undergo explorations

Behrooz Abtahi, head of the National Institute for Oceanography and Atmospheric Science, said that the institute has outstanding research and development programs, one of which is a research exploration in the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman that provides an overview of the biological, physical, chemical, and geological conditions of these water areas.

So far, six explorations have been conducted in the Persian Gulf, and important findings have been achieved, including identifying more low-oxygen layers in the depth of the Oman Sea, which are increasing, he said, adding, to give them a basic idea, these layers are called dead zones that are gradually expanding, he explained.

Dead zones are not new, but recent findings show that these areas are gradually increasing and their layers are gradually approaching water surface, which can affect aquatic species, he lamented.

He went on to say that some of these dead zones are natural, and some may be due to the effects of human activities, but the gradual increase is the result of the direct impact of human activities, and climate change to some extent.

Coasts, coastal waters to be monitored

Referring to the scientific program of monitoring the coasts and coastal waters, he noted that under the program, the situation of coastal waters and especially sensitive ecosystems such as mangroves and corals of Chabahar Bay will be continuously evaluated.

Also, the situation of Gorgan Bay will be monitored as one of the areas that are highly subject to climate change, so that programs can be proposed to improve its situation, he added.

He went on to explain that we have focused on oceanographic research and have found findings, and according to the routine of such research, this information is carefully analyzed after harvest, and a large part of it is published in the form of scientific research articles and will be available to domestic and foreign applicants.

Comprehensive data collection essential

Noting that we are trying to continuously increase the center's information, he stressed: that "One of the requirements for the development of the data center is to increase cooperation between us and other institutions that work in the field of marine science in the country.

“Our relationship on maritime issues with global scientific centers is fine. Part of this is organizational and administrative communication, and given that our research institute represents Iran in maritime activities related to UNESCO, we are in constant contact with the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC).

In addition, we are in contact with 14 regional and international authorities, some of which are related to the Indian Ocean, some others to the promotion and development of ocean culture, in which we are obliged to conduct regional and international courses,” he also explained.

 Ocean acidification needs more attention

Pointing to ocean acidification, he said that over the past century, with the development of industrial activities, we have seen an increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere, and this increase has had an undeniable effect on the chemical composition of the oceans and seas.

As a result, marine biodiversity has been affected, as evidenced by coral bleaching, so the issue of ocean acidification is of particular importance, and using the experiences of other countries like West Asian countries is very important, he added.

In one of its programs, the Institute has launched a network to monitor the acidification of the country’s seas, according to which the water samples of the seas are evaluated in terms of parameters related to the acidification process to create a good database, he concluded.

This article was first published at the Tehran Times

News Code 159621


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