The Global Ocean
The Global Ocean
Seagrass meadows and mangrove forests are just two examples of important coastal habitats that are being seriously affected by human activity. Nearly 30 percent of all the seagrass meadows in the world have been destroyed by construction over the last hundred years. This loss has many effects since seagrass roots help keep the seabed from washing away; seagrass itself cleans water by catching contaminants; and like other plants, seagrass collects and stores carbon dioxide. As well, thousands of marine species live, feed and raise their young in seagrass meadows. Mangrove forests are also significant carbon sinks and provide a habitat for thousands of marine species, yet they are being cut down to make room for farmland, aquaculture and industrial areas.
Likened to the human heart which keeps humans alive by pumping oxygen and nutrients to all parts of the body, the global ocean circulates heat, oxygen and nutrients all around the Earth. This book, part of the “CitizenKid” collection, consists of 10 chapters which discuss the issues affecting the ocean’s health and how individuals and organizations can help heal it.
Though most people think of the world’s five oceans as separate entities, all of the oceans are interconnected to form one large body of water. To illustrate this fact, the author describes an accident which turned into a real-life experiment. During a storm in 1992, a shipping container fell off a cargo ship that was heading from Hong Kong to Washington State. Twenty-eight thousand rubber ducks and other bath toys spilled out, and, for the next 20 years, they were found washed up on shores all over the world. As a result, scientists who tracked the ducks learned a great deal about ocean currents and the connectedness between ocean basins.
Some of the topics in this book include the effects of climate change (some examples are the increasing frequency of hurricanes, the flooding of islands and coastal cities, coral bleaching and the loss of coastal ecosystems); acidification which thins the shells of sea creatures; “ghost gear” which refers to lost or discarded fishing equipment, such as nets, lines and traps which can kill marine animals; noise and light pollution from ships and shorelines that make it hard for animals to communicate or to orient themselves toward the sea; plastics that find their way into the ocean and affect the food chain; overfishing; “bycatch” which refers to animals caught by accident in fishing nets; and dredging which destroys underwater habitats, such as coral and oyster reefs. Besides the main body of the text, there are sidebars and text boxes which provide additional information and interesting facts. One such fact is that some animals with the longest lifespans live in the ocean, one example being the volcano sponge which can live to be 15,000 years old.
Much of the book features problems that humans have created for oceans, but there is hope. Readers will find information about initiatives whose intent is to increase awareness about the importance of oceans and to help save precious marine life. Some of these include shoreline cleanups, art activism (e.g. Sea Walls: Artists for Oceans, street murals which bring attention to the plight of oceans), the creation of marine conservation areas (one of the largest is in Hawaii and covers an area that is larger than all of the US national parks put together), and inventions such as edible water pods made from seaweed extracts to replace plastic water bottles (these were handed out to runners in the London Marathon) and the turtle excluder device (TED) which reduces bycatch by protecting turtles from being caught by shrimp trawlers.
In addition, there are several suggestions as to how kids can reduce their carbon footprint and help save the oceans. Many of the tips also apply to the land environment. At the back of the book, a note for teachers, parents and guardians provides a list of the seven key concepts discussed in the book as well as ideas for home and school to reinforce those concepts. There is also a list of related web sites for further information.
The illustrations, rendered in pencil, Procreate (a digital painting app) and Photoshop are well done, bright, colourful and in keeping with the other books in the “CitizenKid” collection. Curved lines, outlined heavily in black, mimic the wave action of the ocean. Perhaps the addition of a few photographs in a section at the back of the book would have been beneficial. Though the publisher’s recommended audience for the book is 8-12 years of age, the illustration style lends itself to the younger end of the age range while the text lends itself more to the upper end, a slight disconnect. A table of contents and an index are included.
The Global Ocean provides information that can be found in other books; nevertheless, it is a worthwhile read and a good addition to the “CitizenKid” collection.
Gail Hamilton is a former teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, Manitoba.