It’s well-recognized that more than 71% of planet Earth is covered by oceans, but do you realize that 99% of the living space on Earth is in the ocean?
This is because the ocean is very deep for the most part (average depth = 3,688 m, maximum depth at the Marianas Trench is 10,994 m) and covers a vast area. In comparison, Mount Everest is 8,848 m.
Canada’s three oceans (Atlantic Ocean, Arctic Ocean and Pacific Ocean) and Great Lakes cover an area of approximately 5.7 million km2, and Canada has the longest coastline in the world at 202,080 km. Canada’s marine environment supports rich biodiversity, with a great variety of habitats and species, from sponges, corals, and jellyfish to Atlantic cod, Northern gannets, and Humpback whales.
But it is not only marine life that depends on the ocean. In fact, our economy is very dependent on the ocean, for resources and industries such as fisheries, transportation, and offshore oil and gas, as well as research, ocean technology development, recreation, and tourism. More than the economy however, humans are fundamentally tied to the ocean.
Did you know we depend on the ocean for the air we breathe?
Half of the all the oxygen we breathe is generated by phytoplankton in the vast oceans, with the other 50% is generated by forests. At the same time, the ocean also sequesters carbon dioxide, reducing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, and storing it in the ocean bottom. As you know from the water cycle, the ocean is also a key driver of available freshwater, again, critical for human survival. The ocean also plays a major role in weather and climate, nutrient cycling, and is a major source of food for many people, particularly people living on islands and near the coast.
We still know very little about the ocean. Less than 5% of the ocean has been explored and mapped.
This may not seem surprising – but the moon and Mars have been fully mapped! Each time ocean researchers go out on scientific cruises to explore the ocean, they make new discoveries, including whole new species! We are still learning, and new technologies allow us to explore the ocean in a new ways and to go deeper, further, and collect more data than ever before.
Dr. Paul Snelgrove, the Canada Research Chair in Boreal and Cold Ocean Systems, and a professor in the Department of Ocean Sciences at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador, lead a seminal ten-year global study to census the ocean and his TED talk (link below) provides an excellent summary of all that we are still learning about the ocean!