Ocean phytoplankton and algae produce 70-80% of the earths atmospheric oxygen. Why is tree conservation for oxygen so popular over ocean conservation then?


Ocean phytoplankton and algae produce 70-80% of the earths atmospheric oxygen. Why is tree conservation for oxygen so popular over ocean conservation then?

In: Biology

Trees are more familiar, and humanity’s effects on them are more easily understood. You can imagine 100 acres of rainforest being cleared for ranch land or banana plantations a lot more easily than a cloud of phytoplankton dying off. Just the simple fact that trees and humans are on land, while plankton and algae are in water, makes us care about them more.

Also, the focus on tree conservation does far more than just produce oxygen. In fact, I’d say that’s pretty far down the list. Carbon sequestration, soil health, and biological diversity are all greatly affected by deforestation.

Besides converting CO2 into oxygen, trees also store carbon. The process that has O2 as a byproduct is so that the tree has sugar to have energy. This takes the C from CO2 out of the atmosphere and into the wood or other structures of the tree.

In environmental biology trees are sort of a sentinel category. If we turned a giant forest into a parking lot, you’d notice and care. But you might not as easily notice the loss of all the other critters that depend on that forest. Birds, small animals, other plants, etc.

Plus being long lived, trees sequester a lot of carbon for decades. And when they die and decay, some of that carbon remains in the soil for centuries.

The human impact on forests is rather direct, the influence on algae is rather more indirect and uncertain.

Because the old paradigm has to pass out of group-think. The fact that our oceans produce most of our O2 is relatively new information.

Plus, carbon sequestration.

Trees are easier to understand and relate to. It also is better for making money off conservation.

The ocean is hard to relate to for most people, you can’t easily see algae, and is ignored and people complain about paper.

It’s a shame.

We have lots of experience with forests, and the effects of trees on the environment. We know how to produce algae blooms, but we have no solid idea of either the immediate effects or long term consequences.

So, a lot of posts here are bringing up the role that the ocean plays in the average persons mind. It may well be true that it’s easier for people to imagine the productive value of a forest than an ocean. However, I’d argue that a lot of these are missing a bigget issue, which is that much of the ocean production is limited by the amount of nutrients are available around them, meaning that there isn’t a lot we can do to promote or conserve.

Unlike trees and other land plants that rely on the soil for their nutrients, ocean plants (phytoplankton) rely on what’s in the water. This is important because when these plants die or get eaten, they don’t return to the water in the same way that land material returns to the soil; in the ocean things fall all the way to the seafloor, which can take a long time, but effectively removes it from being useful for life at the surface.

There’s a bunch of more intricate stuff going on as well (ocean microbes are much better at recycling stuff than land plants, so a lot of nutrient material gets recycled before it sinks) but it’s probably beyond the scope of an eli5. It is worth saying, however, that some areas of the ocean are more nutrient rich (particularly coastal areas) and there are some efforts to expand large scale kelp farming. This isn’t exactly conservation, but it’s probably the closest ocean equivalent to a large reforestation project.

Plankton are a boring symbol that isn’t really directly connected to anyone. You’re not going to make much money with that mascot.

Once the global temperature of the oceans warms up enough, and that won’t be long now, that algae will no longer be able to survive. In its place will be a type of algae which does not produce oxygen, but what would be considered a poisonous gas to most of the currently living species. Approximately 5% of currently existing tree species should be able to survive and continue producing oxygen, possibly enough for humans to continue living above ground.

It’s not about oxygen, it’s about carbon sequestration.

Ocean fertilization for carbon storage is an area of current study.

Just bring on Skynet at this point. At least we will know how all other life feels about us.

I think also a consideration could be the impact of increasing the mass of algae. More trees in an area seem unlikely to have a negative impact on things; certainly they compete with each other for nutrients/sunlight/water but they don’t hurt the animals around them. We’ve seen how blooms of algae can produce a situation where there are not enough animal algae consumers to manage the load, the algae and bacterial populations climb, O2 is depleted as a consequence of the bacterial degradation of the algae and now you’ve got a dead zone where no life succeeds. We do this “accidentally” all the time.

Its a system somthing about trees in amazon make kind of an air river than carries tons of rain across the world and that rain brings minerals a shit ton of minerals to the ocean than diamatons(somthing like that) live on. Trees put tons and tons of moisture in the air

It’s actually more about the carbon capture capabilities of trees and the habitats they create for various organisms. And they help with oxygen

Makes a strong political statement! Not about the facts as it is with politics. But trees are nicer to look at and smell better than what is essentially pond scum.

I think it’s a bit simpler than others are explaining. I think it’s because most people don’t know that fact. I certainly didn’t before you asked this question! And it’s very difficult to effectively propagate public awareness of facts like that without a massive cultural push from many sources, the likes of which deforestation has had over the last few decades.

Simply put, trees are… Well, trees. Trees are cool, you can climb them, sit under their shade, some grow food, all kinds of good stuff.

Algae and phytoplankton? They’re floating ocean goop. Not exactly charismatic stuff.

It’s called rain forest and not oxygen forest , they play a very important role in our water cycle

Trees get hype and we know oxygen is hugely important, but the significance of oxygen production by trees is overestimated and the significance of trees for everything else is underestimated, by laymen, mostly.

Trees produce oxygen and absorb carbon. These are great things. But they also: provide habitats for other animals and organisms; stabilize the soil by digging a web of roots that act as a skeletal support for raw earth; retain moisture from the environment, helping the ecosystem maintain a balance of moisture between the rains; shed their leaves annually, helping enrich the soil around them; protect against wind; provide shade; and while we don’t understand all of the scientific reasons why yet, trees are scientifically proven to improve the happiness and health of people the observe and live around them (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/07/09/scientists-have-discovered-that-living-near-trees-is-good-for-your-health/?noredirect=on).

Trees really are amazing for life on land. The ocean is teeming with life, but land is harder for life, because soil dries up and it takes a lot more energy to maintain our own temperatures, moisture levels, and to even move around on land as opposed to drifting in the water.