Ocean Literacy Standards

1. The Earth has one big ocean with many features.

a. The ocean is the defining physical feature on our planet Earth—covering approximately 70% of the planet’s surface. There is one ocean with many ocean basins, such as the North Pacific, South Pacific, North Atlantic, South Atlantic, Indian, Southern, and Arctic.

c. Throughout the ocean there is one interconnected circulation system powered by wind, tides, the force of Earth’s rotation (Coriolis effect), the Sun and water density differences. The shape of ocean basins and adjacent land masses influence the path of circulation. This “global ocean conveyor belt” moves water throughout all of the ocean basins, transporting energy (heat), matter, and organisms around the ocean. Changes in ocean circulation have a large impact on the climate and cause changes in ecosystems.

g. The ocean is connected to major lakes, watersheds, and waterways because all major watersheds on Earth drain to the ocean.

3. The ocean is a major influence on weather and climate.

e. The ocean dominates Earth’s carbon cycle. Half of the primary productivity on Earth takes place in the sunlit layers of the ocean. The ocean absorbs roughly half of all carbon dioxide and methane that are added to the atmosphere

f. The ocean has had, and will continue to have, a significant influence on climate change by absorbing, storing, and moving heat, carbon, and water. Changes in the ocean’s circulation have produced large, abrupt changes in climate during the last 50,000 years.

g. Changes in the ocean-atmosphere system can result in changes to the climate that in turn, cause further changes to the ocean and atmosphere. These interactions have dramatic physical, chemical, biological, economic, and social consequences.

4. The ocean made Earth habitable.

a. Most of the oxygen in the atmosphere originally came from the activities of photosynthetic organisms in the ocean. This accumulation of oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere was necessary for life to develop and be sustained on land

c. The ocean provided and continues to provide water, oxygen, and nutrients, and moderates the climate needed for life to exist on Earth

5. The ocean supports a great diversity of life and ecosystems.

a. Ocean life ranges in size from the smallest living things, microbes, to the largest animal on Earth, blue whales.

d. Ocean biology provides many unique examples of life cycles, adaptations, and important relationships among organisms (symbiosis, predator-prey dynamics, and energy transfer) that do not occur on land.

6. The ocean and humans are inextricably interconnected.

a. The ocean affects every human life. It supplies freshwater (most rain comes from the ocean) and nearly all Earth’s oxygen. The ocean moderates the Earth’s climate, influences our weather, and affects human health.

d. Humans affect the ocean in a variety of ways. Human development and activity leads to pollution (point source, nonpoint source, and noise pollution), changes to ocean chemistry (ocean acidification), and physical modifications (changes to beaches, shores, and rivers). In addition, humans have removed most of the large vertebrates from the ocean.

e. Changes in ocean temperature and pH due to human activities can affect the survival of some organisms and impact biological diversity (coral bleaching due to increased temperature and inhibition of shell formation due to ocean acidification).

g. Everyone is responsible for caring for the ocean. The ocean sustains life on Earth and humans must live in ways that sustain the ocean. Individual and collective actions are needed to effectively manage ocean resources for all.

Performance Expectations:  Students who demonstrate understanding will create strategies for minimizing amounts of non-point source pollution in their neighborhood. They will create and present persuasive photo presentations on the topic of plastic pollution.


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