In Pictures: Conservation International’s “Nine Ocean Species You Never Knew You Needed”…
Bearing in mind that tomorrow, June 8th is this year’s World Oceans Day, Conservation International recently tweeted a link to this article of theirs related to last May’s International Day of Biodiversity highlighting how the creatures of the ocean can be more important to our lives than we ever realise. Personally, the only thing I felt it was lacking was some pictures, so cue, er…well, me!…
Here’s what CI had to say about these species:
Marine species play innumerable roles that underpin our welfare. Some of these are obvious, but others less so. Following is a selection of just a few marine species and the roles they play in our lives.
1. Tuna: These streamlined, lightning-fast swimmers not only underpin the food and livelihood security of millions of people — they also act as top ocean predators that keep species populations in check to ensure a healthy balance between different levels in the food web. Drastic tuna population declines would likely have negative impacts on ocean health.
2. Krill: Practically at the opposite end of the size spectrum from tuna, which can attain gigantic proportions, billions of tiny krill — small oceanic shrimp-like creatures — serve as the foundation of food chains, especially in the southern oceans.
3. Mangroves: Forming stately forests that cover hundreds of unbroken miles of coastline in some areas, mangroves provide coastal societies with protection from extreme weather events and serve as nursery areas for many species, including fish that are important for both local food security and national revenues.
4. Diatoms: These single-celled, glass covered, free-floating (planktonic) organisms are the most abundant marine species on Earth and sustain the majority of the ocean’s productivity. Without them serving as vast quantities of food for everything else, there would be few more complex life forms. Additionally, diatoms produce much of the oxygen we need.
5. Sharks: The world’s 350 species of sharks live in diverse habitats across the oceans. As top predators, sharks are best known for their ecological role as regulators of ocean health, but they also underpin the cultural identity of Pacific Islanders, as in Hawaii where sharks were revered as deities.
6. Fungi: These organisms have the special ability to help recovery of marine areas affected by contamination. Mycoremediation, a special form of bioremediation, is the process of using fungi to break down and render harmless noxious chemicals, such as petroleum and pesticides, which have accumulated in the environment.
7. Whales: After centuries of overexploitation for oil, food and other products, these days whales are rarely captured — except on camera. Across the globe, whales are a key attraction in a nature tourism industry valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Once whales die, they sink to the bottom, where their slowly decaying bodies can serve as the basis for entire benthic (ocean floor) communities for years.
8. Clams: These bivalves are well-known as delicious ingredients in many dishes, including Spanish paella. Less known is the inspiration they provide for industrial design through biomimicry, the process of designing inventions to meet human needs by applying solutions that other species have evolved to solve environmental challenges. By copying the interlocked surfaces of a clam’s shells bound with a flexible strap, inventors produced a simple, remarkably strong system for joining two rigid surfaces that must withstand huge forces that could break them apart.
9. Tunicates: These generally rubbery animals attach themselves to solid surfaces from which they seine passing food from currents for most of their lives. Unremarkable in appearance, tunicates produce some of the most promising potent compounds to fight cancers, including skin melanoma.
The species that are the most important for people varies with location, income group, and over time, as species’ roles change as natural and social environments evolve. In addition, only just over a million of the planet’s species have been formally catalogued — so who knows what benefits the species we haven’t yet documented may hold?
- Scott Henderson, Conservation International