Nearly 80 percent of the Earth's surface is covered with water, nearly all of it being in the form of oceans. Therefore, any environmental changes that are sensed on a global scale are certainly expressed in aquatic ecosystems. The purpose of this paper is to explore the nature by which one aspect of the changing environment, ultraviolet radiation, affects the sensitive balance of the oceans. Specifically, the focus will be on the relationship between increasing ultraviolet radiation and the survival of phytoplankton, fish, and other aquatic animals.
Ozone is one of the Earth's natural means of protection from the Sun's damaging rays. It is found primarily in a very thin layer existing in the stratosphere, the area seen in the diagram to the right between 40 and 110 km from the Earth's surface. The ozone layer allows the proper amount of the sun's energy to pass into the Earth's inner atmosphere so that an equilibrium suitable for life may be established. However, due mainly to man's production of industrial compounds called CFC's (chlorofluorocarbons), a decrease in ozone in the stratosphere has occured. In fact, since 1978, it is estimated that the ozone layer has been lessened by more than 3 percent. There has been extensive documentation of a hole in the ozone layer existing over Antarctica. A decrease in ozone means that more harmful UV rays are allowed to reach the earth's surface. The outcome of such an occurance has been seen in the increasing incidence of skin cancer in humans and damage to some agricultural products. Some effects can also be seen, however, quite clearly in the Earth's oceans.
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Armstrong, Dr. R. "Effects of Ultraviolet Radiation on Mangroves, Seagrass Beds and Coral Reefs." http://tcess.uprm.edu/ultrav.htm
Atmospheric Research and Information Center. "Ozone Depletion and Aquatic Life." http://www.doc.mmu.ac.uk/aric/ace/oz_14.html
Connor, Tim. "Under the Ozone Hole, Antarctic Life Is Threatened." http://www.edf.org/pubs/EDF-Letter/1989/Oct/n_antartica.html
Environmental Protection Agency. "The Effects of Ozone Depletion." http://www.epa.gov/spdpublc/science/effects.html
GLY1033 Electronic Tutor. http://ess.geology.ufl.edu
SeaWiFS Project. "Phytoplankton: A Little Link in a Big Chain." http://seawifs.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEAWIFS/LIVING_OCEAN/TEACHER3.html
Walworth, Garret L. "UV Radiation, Periphyton, and Western Toads: food web relationships." http://dalton.lssu.edu/srthesis/srth9596/WALWORAB.TXT
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