When it comes to producing the oxygen necessary for life on earth, many immediately associate it with plants, which convert carbon dioxide into life-giving oxygen. But half of the amount of oxygen inhaled on the planet comes from water. Without oceans, seas, glaciers or inland bodies of water, there would be no life on the planet, but climate change is also a threat to these habitats. And where the destruction has already taken place, only the reintroduction of life can help.
Italian researchers are trying to restore the wildlife of a coastal zone in an unusual way. There is not much life to be found in the once two-million-square-meter steelworks, toxic substances such as chromium, mercury and arsenic have destroyed almost everything, leaving only barren rocks after the closure of the plant in 1992, Euronews reports.
The solution is as drastic as the devastation: underwater gardens are built that liven up the barren seabed with algae and corals. Among them is an endangered seagrass species, Posidonia Oceanica, which scientists say will help boost biodiversity. This is important because 70% of the world’s seas and oceans have seen a sharp decrease in biodiversity over recent years.
The aim is to create an environment that existed in the waters off the Italian coast before the 20th century - they would turn the wheel of time back to the times before the most polluting era of human activity. Researchers are surprised at how effectively seagrass can cope with changing temperatures due to climate change - thanks to its resilience, they expect Posidonia Oceanica to be “functioning” for the long run.
“If you throw away a plastic bottle at the top of Mont Blanc, there is a 60 percent chance that it will end up in the Mediterranean a few years later.”, said Pascal Lamy, Chair of the Mission Board for Healthy Oceans, Seas, Coastal and Inland Waters. Lamy says “everything is interconnected with everything here”, and in such a complex system, it’s not easy to restore order quickly - especially not after many decades of pollution.
The European Union’s Horizon Europe framework programme aims to make the world a better place with five missions, including water protection. The goal is to protect 30% of Europe’s total water surfaces by 2030 - there are some such waters even today, but they are still rare, as overfishing and fuel damage are a constant problem in Europe.
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