“Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet”
28th July marks World Nature Conservation Day, a day to raise awareness to preserve our natural resources, from the smallest fish to the largest trees, every organism is important to our world.
As the world develops, we are losing larger amounts of environmental areas and organisms, with greater numbers being added to the Critically Endangered list. According to Rain-Tree.com, 200,000 acres of rainforest is lost everyday, that’s the equivalent of 113,357.4 football fields every single day.
Here at Aquanauts, we are very aware of our environmental footprint, which is why we have been working with Ecologi for the past 14 months. Ecologi are replanting trees to help reduce carbon dioxide pollution. As we are losing so many trees at such an alarming rate, CO2 levels are steadily increasing - as we are are aware, trees are one of the best carbon sinks, by turning CO2 into oxygen for us to breathe. Collectively over the last 14 months, we have reduced 61.8T of carbon by planting 1013 trees! We know it is only a small dent in the large scale of deforestation, but by planting greater numbers of trees, we can slowly rebuild what has been lost.
Rising CO2 levels
As CO2 levels steadily increase to an all-time high due to over-use of fossil fuels and deforestation, greenhouse gasses absorb solar energy and keep heat close to Earth’s surface, rather than it radiating into space. This trapping effect is known as the greenhouse effect. As the Earth is 70% water, the warming effect directly impacts our oceans as they absorb more and more heat, resulting in an increase in sea surface temperatures and rising sea levels.
What is Blue Carbon? Blue Carbon is carbon which has been stored in both marine and coastal ecosystems, such as seagrasses, mangroves and tidal marshes. Did you know, that 83% of the global carbon cycle is circulated through the ocean? These marine ecosystems sequester and store gigantic quantities of carbon in the plants and the surrounding sediment.
Seagrasses cover less than 0.2% of the ocean floor, however, of all the carbon buried in the oceans every year, approximately 10% is sequested by seagrasses. Unfortunately, the loss rate of seagrasses has increased to 1.5% per year, having lost 30% of the historical global coverage already.
When these marine ecosystems are destroyed, they release the stored carbon into the oceans and atmosphere, it is estimated that as much as 1.02 BILLION (1,020,000,000) tonnes of CO2 are slowly being released each year, that is the equivalent of 19% of global tropical deforestation emissions.
Impacts on Waters
How do higher CO2 levels effect our oceans? One of the main impacts of higher CO2 levels is ocean acidification. Ocean acidification is where the very finely tuned pH value of the oceans is decreasing due to rising CO2 levels and becomes more acidic, this can effect many different marine organisms in different ways. As reef-building corals rely on carbonate ions within the water to produce their skeletons, ocean acidification reduces the concentration of carbonate ions, therefore stunting their growth. If the ocean’s pH continues to decrease, shells, and coral skeletons can begin to dissolve and die.
Another problem that is occurring are rising CO2 levels, which are directly causing global warming. As global warming is occurring, our oceans’ temperature also increases, as water temperature increases, coral bleaching can occur.
Corals are bright and colourful die to microscopic algae (zooxanthellae), these algae live within the coral in a symbiotic relationship. When sea water temperature rises, or any other major environmental changes occur, the coral stresses and expels the algae. As the coral expels the algae, the colour is also expelled, making the coral seem “bleached”. If the water temperature steadily increases, the coral will keep expelling the zooxanthellae until it dies.
Once corals die off, their surrounding reefs rarely survive. With dwindling coral populations, corals struggle to reproduce and entire reef ecosystems, on which people and wildlife depend upon, deteriorate and die.
How you can help at home
Although the major contributors to rising greenhouse emissions can be pinned to roughly 20 of the biggest international fossil fuel companies, there is still more that can be done. If everyone slightly reduces their overall carbon emissions, we can address the global economic inequality and help save the environment.
There are many different ways to alter your own carbon footprint and these can be as simple as walking more and driving less. Cars are big polluters of greenhouse gases, although the new CO2 emission legislations enforced by the EU in 2021, aim to reduce all net green house gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030.
Reducing your overall air travel will help to reduce your own carbon foot print as it emits large volumes of CO2 emissions. As COVID has recently influenced our ability to travel overseas, more and more people will be looking to the UK for a local “staycation”, promoting less air travel.
Thinking about what you eat just a little bit, by choosing to pick local food and ingredients which are not traveling thousands of miles from farm to table will also make a difference. Now, we’re not forcing everyone to turn vegetarian/ vegan by any means, BUT reducing the amount of overall red-meat in your diet will decrease your carbon footprint. It takes a lot of resources to raise cows, and as cattle farming has increased and increased, the volume of methane that is produced by cattle farms is astonishing. Cattle farming is the number 1 agricultural source of greenhouse gases, each year a single cow will belch roughly 99.9kg of methane gas into the atmosphere. Methane is shorter lived than CO2 but is 28 times more potent in warming the atmosphere.
Being more aware of your home energy usage is another easy way to decrease your emissions, by turning off lights and appliances when you’re not using them, insulating your home efficiently and switching over to smart-meters for your gas and electricity will save you money and reduce your carbon footprint.
There are many many way to influence how you take control of your carbon emissions, but every little change helps.