Effect of Stratospheric Ozone Depletion on Aquatic Ecosystems

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The Effect of Stratospheric Ozone Depletion on Aquatic Ecosystems

Introduction

Throughout the years, advances in technology and scientific development have greatly influenced our global community. Various anthropogenic factors, such as the increased combustion of fossil fuels and widespread usage of manmade chemicals, have greatly affected the planet's atmosphere and it's ozone layer.

Ozone Depletion

The stratospheric ozone layer is the Earth's natural means of protection from the Sun's damaging ultraviolet rays. Some of the chemicals most harmful to the ozone layer are chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs. These compounds are chemically inert gasses that, when introduced to the stratosphere, speed up the depletion of the ozone layer. The reason that these chemicals are so harmful is that after a CFC molecule is broken up by UV radiation in the stratosphere, its Chlorine atom is free to react with the ozone molecules in the atmosphere. Because Chlorine is a catalyst, it continues to react with other ozone molecules causing continuous damage and depletion of the ozone, as can be seen from the chart of CFC reactions below.

As the ozone layer continues to be depleted, more harmful ultraviolet rays are able to penetrate the earth's atmosphere and are absorbed by its surface. Although the sun's emissions of UV rays remain constant, decreases in stratospheric ozone levels cause a reduction in the Earth's protection from the sun's harmful rays. Research has recently shown that over exposure to UV-B radiation can impair the body's ability to fight off disease, in addition to causing skin cancer and a range of eye disorders. Ultraviolet radiation also deleteriously affects plant growth by reducing leaf size and the...

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...mental effects on marine life and the aquatic food chain. Further damage to the earth's aquatic ecosystems must be prevented in order to prevent not only the deterioration of oceanic life, but also the deterioration of the planet and its diverse life forms. By ceasing CFC usage and implementing substitutes, as well as through decreasing fossil fuel emissions and the release of other chemicals into the atmosphere, we can attempt to conserve what remains of the ozone layer and thus impede the increasing penetration of UV rays into the Earth's atmosphere and oceans. The safety of the planet and its organisms rests on the protection of the stratospheric ozone layer. If the depletion of stratospheric ozone continues, it will result in the deterioration of the phytoplankton which is an important base to the aquatic food chain on which most marine and animal life depends.

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