The oceans are our planet's most distinctive and imposing natural habitat. They cover 71 per cent of its surface; support a remarkably diverse and exquisitely adapted array of life forms, from microscopic viruses, bacteria, and plankton to the largest existing animals; and possess many of Earth's most significant, intriguing, and inaccessible ecosystems. In an era in which humans are significantly altering the global environment, the oceans are undergoing rapid and profound changes. The study of marine biology is thus taking on added importance and urgency as people struggle to understand and manage these changes to protect our marine ecosystems. Healthy oceans produce half of the oxygen we breathe; stabilize our climate; create ecosystems that protect our coasts from storms; provide us with abundant food; and host diverse organisms that provide us with natural products for medicine and biotechnology.
In this Very Short Introduction, marine biologist Philip Mladenov provides an accessible and up-to-date overview of marine biology, offering a tour of marine life and marine processes that ranges from the unimaginably abundant microscopic organisms that drive the oceans' food web to the apex predators that we exploit for food; from polar ocean ecosystems to tropical coral reefs; and from the luxurious kelp beds of the coastal ocean to deep-ocean hydrothermal vents where life exists without the energy of the sun. Throughout Marine Biology: A Very Short Introduction he considers the human impacts on marine life including overfishing, plastic and nutrient pollution, the spread of exotic species, and ocean warming and acidification. He discusses the threats these pose to our welfare, and the actions required to put us on a path to a more sustainable relationship with our oceans so that they can be restored and protected for future generations. Mladenov concludes with a new chapter offering an inspiring vision for the future of our oceans in 2050 that can be realised if we are wise enough to accelerate actions already underway and be bold with implementing new approaches.
The next decade will decide the state of the oceans that we leave behind for future generations.
List of illustrations
List of tables
List of abbreviations
1: The oceanic environment
2: Marine biological processes
3: Life in the coastal ocean
4: Polar marine biology
5: Marine life in the tropics
6: Deep-ocean biology
7: Intertidal life
8: Food from the oceans
9: The future of our oceans
Philip Mladenov has 40 years of professional experience in marine and environmental research, teaching and exploration. Now retired from his position of Professor of Marine Science at the University of Otago, he has authored over 80 scientific papers and a broad range of consulting reports, government reviews, and popular articles. As well as his academic contributions, Philip has worked with government agencies, politicians, and large companies to build awareness and strategic responses to climate change, environmental degradation, and resource over-exploitation.
"Authoritative yet tender, this is a first-rate introduction to the mysteries of life in the ocean – and a glimpse of how that life is changing as humans damage the very chemistry of the sea around us."
– Alanna Mitchell, author of Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis
"Dipping a toe into any chapter of this Very Short Introduction is like diving into the complex, wonderful world of ocean life. You're quickly and fully immersed in every topic."
– Professor Stephen Palumbi, Stanford University