An ocean-size challenge

The 58 U.S. national parks are well known for protecting and preserving some of the nation’s most remarkable geography and landmarks. But did you know that there is a similar group of treasured and protected national sites in the ocean, called national marine sanctuaries? Fourteen of them dot the waters of the United States.

Protecting the ocean and its sea life is important for many reasons, but it’s a huge challenge; just one sanctuary near Hawaii is bigger than all of the country’s national parks put together, according to Michiko Martin, education coordinator for the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. The area covered by the 14 sanctuaries “still only represents less than 1 percent of U.S. waters,” she said.

Acidification
(ah-SID-i-fi-cay-shun)

This big word refers to a change in the chemical properties of the water. If you were to soak a seashell in vinegar, which is very acidic, it would begin to fall apart after just a few minutes. That same process is happening at a much more gradual pace in the ocean.

Over time, more-acidic water makes it difficult for marine life to create the hard, bonelike structures they need, including including coral, shells and skeletons.

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (the result of pollution) dissolves into the ocean and causes chemical changes in the water. National Marine Sanctuary programs monitor protected areas for these changes and test solutions to the problem.

Margaret Webb Pressler, The Washington Post, 7 June 2011. Full article.


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