Snowfall can inspire all kinds of feelings—joy, excitement, dread—either way, you’re always sure to be able to witness the wondrous beauty of watching microscopic particles falling from the sky and forming a thick blanket on the everything they touch.
Did you know it snows in the sea as well? The only difference is, it’s vastly different from any snow you’ve ever experienced.
The ocean is teeming with amazing biodiversity, inhabiting the waters from the surface to the unexplored depths. When these animals, plants, and organisms near the surface die and decay, they tend to fall downwards towards the sea floor. But biological debris is not the only thing that makes up marine snow; it’s also made up of:
Now that you know what marine snow is, let’s move onto why you should know about it. The two things marine snow is primarily known for are:
When the organic material falls to the bottom of the ocean, it doesn’t usually reach its destination. Along the way, the particles of marine snow combine and grow in size. These are consumed by sea creatures for whom this is a nutritious food source.
Several of these animals, who live deep within the ocean, act as scavengers and filter the water and seabed to find these particles. This forms the continuous marine food chain, acting as a food source for other animals when the ones that consumed the marine snow decompose and produce waste. And so the cycle continues.
A small amount of the marine snow is left that isn’t consumed by creatures in the depths of the sea; this remainder manages to continue its journey to the ocean floor. Here, it is incorporated into the ooze that blankets the ocean floor.
At its final destination, the marine snow further decomposes and acts as a source of stored carbon dioxide. These constantly-growing layers of oceanic ooze act as a store for decomposing carbon, these layers are piled onto each other and bury this gas deep beneath the sea. While you may be wondering how such tiny fragments of decomposing oceanic life could have such great implications for the climate, it is owing to the sheer number of inhabitants in the sea—marine snow is a constant process that doesn’t stop. Thus, a significant portion of the carbon dioxide that would’ve been released into the atmosphere is stored away for years.
The oceans, in all their glory, are constantly contributing to making our lives better. Express your love for the sea and its creatures by contributing to a cause that donates 10% of its net income to the Ocean Conservancy and Sea Turtles Preservation Association.
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At first glance, jellyfish look like empty bags floating through the ocean. Their clear, gelatinous bodies have no heart or brain; to most people, the only thing worth noting about jellyfish is their ability to sting you.
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