The ocean is referred to as a carbon sink due to its ability to absorb and store large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. In fact, oceans absorb 23% of human-caused CO2 emissions. That means that the ocean has sucked up about a quarter of the CO2 released into the atmosphere since we began burning fossil fuels for energy during the Industrial Revolution. Oceans also absorb 90% of the excess heat from human activities.
Carbon dioxide is one of the main greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, so the ocean’s ability to remove it from the air helps mitigate the effects of climate change.
When CO2 from the atmosphere dissolves in the ocean, it is taken up by marine organisms. In fact, did you know that phytoplankton absorbs about as much carbon as all the plants and trees on land combined?
Other marine creatures use carbon to build their skeletons and shells, as oysters do. This means that they can trap carbon, keeping it from polluting the environment. Over time, as these organisms die and their skeletons and shells sink to the ocean floor, they take the carbon with them, effectively removing it from the atmosphere.
However, human activities have also led to an increase in the amount of CO2 the ocean is storing. This is due to the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and other activities that release large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. The more CO2 we release into the atmosphere, the more will be absorbed by the oceans, which is becoming excessive.
Regenerating lost oyster reefs is a solution to this, and another reason why bringing oysters back into the ocean is urgent and crucial to restore ocean health and fight climate change.
Therefore, while we must reduce our emissions and transition to a low-carbon future, we also need to think of ways to effectively remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and from the ocean water.
Storing C02 in oyster reefs is a natural, efficient and cost-effective solution.
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