Learn about the ozone layer, how the depletion of it negatively affects plant and animal life on Earth, and what we can do to prevent further destruction of our planet’s essential sun shield.
The ozone is a layer that protects the Earth from harmful sun rays. It is very important that the UV rays given off by the sun do not penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere at full strength. Around 98% of UV rays are reflected away from the planet because of the ozone layer. This means that the optimal amount of UV rays from the sun are given to the Earth, which is enough sunlight to keep the Earth’s temperature at a steady level for its organisms’ survival while preventing damage.
Global climate change, impacted by the burning of fossil fuels and other environmentally damaging human activities, is causing the depletion of the ozone layer. More of the sun’s UV rays are being allowed to penetrate the Earth, which is harmful to the survival of its many life forms. But why is the depletion of our ozone layer so dangerous, and how does it affect the plants and animals that call Earth home? Keep reading to find out more.
What does ozone depletion mean for plants and animals?
Ozone depletion causes more dangerous UV rays to penetrate the Earth and reach its surface. Plants are unable to adapt quickly enough to the increase in radiation, which has adverse effects on important physiological processes. Metabolic processes, nutrient absorption, reproductive stages, etc are all negatively impacted because of structural changes to the plant due to an excess of sunlight.
Human & animal life
An excess of dangerous UV rays impacts human and animal life greatly. UV rays can cause serious damage to human and animal cells, which can cause an array of physical health conditions such as skin cancer and other severe diseases. Increased UV rays can cause DNA to mutate (leading to cancer) and can also cause the immune system to become suppressed and weak. Weaker immune systems mean a higher chance of contracting and not being able to fight off disease. UV rays negatively impact the body’s immune response which increases the severity of illness and the likelihood of catching infectious diseases.
How does ozone depletion affect different environments?
All plants and animals depend on specific environments (or ecosystems) to keep them abundant and healthy. Ozone depletion negatively impacts these ecosystems and can cause a decline in biodiversity as a result. Some examples of ecosystems affected by ozone depletion include marine ecosystems, forest ecosystems, desert ecosystems, and grassland ecosystems. One of the major ecosystems affected by ozone depletion is the marine ecosystem.
Marine ecosystem effects
Depletion of the ozone layer can significantly alter marine ecosystems. It can harm cell division when offspring are developing in the ocean and change the orientations of small organisms living in the seas. Ocean waters possess methods of absorbing UV light – such as dissolved organic substances which shield oceanic organisms from harmful UV rays.
However, different areas of the ocean have different levels of protection against UV rays. UV rays can travel through tens of metres of water in oceans and lakes, so organisms living near the surface of the water are heavily exposed to them. An example of this type of surface-living organism is a species called Phytoplanktons.
These organisms are essential in keeping water acidity at the correct level because they filter carbon. As these important organisms die out due to heavy UV exposure, water will become overly acidic, which is dangerous to a large number of marine life forms.
Because oceanic species differ in their resistance to UV rays, ozone depletion can cause the biodiversity of oceans to decrease due to certain species’ intolerance of powerful sunlight. Harmful UV rays can also cause the temperature of the ocean to increase significantly in a phenomenon called coral bleaching, which is also severely harmful to marine life.
The causes of ozone depletion
The stratosphere is where the ozone layer is – the second layer of the Earth’s atmosphere. There are actually only several molecules of ozone in our air, but these molecules are essential to maintaining life on our planet. The main causes of ozone depletion are not only the burning of fossil fuels but also the release of CFCs. CFCs are chemicals normally found in everyday items you may use such as plastic and aerosols.
Is it possible to save the ozone layer?
It is possible to restore the ozone layer to its original state if everyone takes responsibility for caring for the environment. Controlling the use of CFCs and greenhouse gases, as well as living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle such as by recycling and lowering your carbon footprint can go a long way in protecting our precious ozone layer.
The ozone layer has a crucial role in protecting life on Earth as we know it. As a species, we must take action to prevent further destruction of the ozone layer by living more environmentally friendly lifestyles, otherwise, the negative impacts on plant and animal life will continue and worsen for many years to come.