Oceans & Rivers


Oceans and Rivers

The ocean covers roughly 70.9% of the earth’s surface with 228,450 known species that call it home. We have only explored 5% of the world’s ocean and it is thought that up to two million species might yet be discovered in the vast expanse of our unexplored waters. More people have stood on the moon than have visited the deepest part of our ocean.


The ocean’s meandering best mate is the river. There is no official number on the amount of rivers in the world (there’s a lot), but there are 165 major rivers connected to the oceans, long and wide enough to carry enormous volumes of water each day. Rivers are a source of fresh water for millions of people around the world. They play a vital role in people’s way of life and livelihoods such as fishing and agriculture, and they are home to some of the most diverse and endangered wildlife on earth.


Water is the foundation of life. According to the National Ocean Service, the ocean produces between 50-80% of the world’s oxygen with seaweed, plankton, oceanic plants and algae being some of the gold medalists in that arena. Prochlorococcus (a type of bacteria) produces a staggering 20% of the world’s oxygen. If that’s not enough, the ocean is also responsible for absorbing one third of the carbon emissions caused by humans.


Together, oceans and rivers are the primary source of food and drinking water for more than half the people on the planet. That’s 3.5 billion people who depend on a healthy and thriving ecosystem just to live. Not to mention the effect they have on surrounding habitats, ecosystems, and the influence they have over weather patterns.


As for the other half, these waters play a key role in the water cycle, providing rain water for every living thing on the planet, not to mention all the commercial, recreational and well-being benefits that provide the lifestyles we’ve grown to know and love. All of our drinking water comes directly and indirectly from rivers, streams and reservoirs.


Freshwater environments such as rivers, streams, lakes and wetlands, have enormous benefits in our fight against climate change. Wetlands alone store twice as much carbon as all the trees on earth.


So, all in all… water’s pretty awesome, huh.


The Problem

You’ve probably heard by now that the rapid increase of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere is having serious consequences on our oceans and rivers, and in turn, every species on Earth – including us, both directly and indirectly. So let’s explore that a little.


Ocean temperatures are rising, which is melting ice caps at a rapid rate, rising sea levels are destroying ecosystems that have lived in harmony for millions of years until we came along. Weather patterns are disputed in hotter climates, meaning that when rain doesn’t fall, entire harvests will be ruined.


Consequently, communities who need the food most go without, and it also means less of the food that you love (rice, sugar etc). As a result, the farmers in these regions will have to look for different work to survive. We’ll see a huge shift in migration as people will seek resources to live, to earn an income and to find safer weather and living conditions. This will lead to overpopulation and the spread of disease, with fewer resources to go around, which could eventually lead to more conflict and even wars.


Climate change is a major threat to river health, clean water and water supplies. The impacts of global warming will be devastating for river communities such as cities, towns and villages as droughts, floods and waterborne diseases will only continue to increase.


Polluted river water caused by industry, poor water management, flood water runoff and human waste is having a devastating impact on many communities. Impaired water quality limits the availability of safe drinking water, food production, water for domestic use and recreation. Globally, 2 billion people use water contaminated with faeces as their drinking water, which can transmit deadly diseases. According to the World Health Organisation, over 800,000 people die every year from diarrhea as a result of unsafe drinking water.


Even in the UK, 75% of our rivers fail to meet required health standards.


If we continue on this path, we will see dramatic changes to the world around us in the coming decades and we stand to leave our children and grandchildren to inherit a broken world.


In the words of Home Alone: this is our house, and we have to defend it.


Notable Projects

There are so many great organisations out there working on incredible solutions to the challenges our oceans and rivers face every day – we’ve shared a few with you below. We aim to help boost their efforts with funding and resources wherever we can.


The Coral Restoration Foundation and Reef Restoration Foundation.

These are two organisations leading the way in successfully restoring coral to many reefs around the world. They’re on a mission to produce one million new corals in the Great Barrier Reef by 2026.


You can also become a Coral Crusader and adopt a coral or donate to the cause by going to their websites. Nemo will be very happy that you did.


The Ocean Clean Up.

Ocean pollution may seem like a lost cause, but it’s not. There are some wonderful organisations out there that are tackling this issue head on, one being The Ocean Clean Up, who are aiming to clean up 90% of floating plastic pollution using advanced technologies. 


Climate Foundation

The Climate Foundation are on a mission to regenerate life in the oceans. 


One of their man focal points is Marine Permaculture; the ocean farming of seaweed and kelp. Both are incredibly effective in the fight against climate change and if farmed en-masse could help in reducing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, aid in reducing the oceans acidity whilst also increasing biodiversity. Kelp and seaweed collectively remove more CO2 from the atmosphere than rainforests (by area).



Oceana is the largest international advocacy organisation dedicated solely to ocean conservation. They work to protect and restore the world’s oceans through targeted policy campaigns and so far have over 200 victories that have stopped overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution and killing of threatened species like turtles and sharks.


Aquaculture Stewardship Council

The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) promotes responsible fish farming practices through their certification program collaborating with scientists, conservative groups, aquaculture producers, seafood processors and retail companies. They have created a set of standards that address key environmental and social impacts of fish farming which include requirements for farm practices, feed ingredients, traceability, workers rights and the protection of surrounding communities. Their aim is to transform the world’s seafood industry and promote the best environmental and social aquaculture performance.

More Information

As a result of rising temperatures, ice caps and ice sheets are melting at an alarming rate causing sea levels to rise, along with coastal erosion and the destruction of surrounding habitats and ecosystems.There are two ice sheets in the world: Greenland and the Antarctic; together they contain more than 99% of the world’s fresh water.These ice sheets contain so much water that if they were both to completely melt it would raise global sea levels by 66m (216 feet). That’s the same height as 15 double decker busses on top of one another. London and large portions of the UK would be a thing of the past, Venice and the Netherlands would have been completely submerged. The majority of the east coast of America including New York and Florida would disappear, Buenos Aires would be obliterated, the list goes on.As it stands, the Greenland ice sheet is already currently melting at a rate of 10,000 cubic meters a second which is the equivalent of 15 Great Pyramids Of Giza crashing into the ocean every hour.
Marine life and ecosystems are in danger as carbon dioxide is making the ocean more acidic. Coral reefs for instance, are home to thousands of species such as fish, turtles, crabs and shellfish, and is one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world.The bright colours of coral are due to microscopic algae that live within the coral, however, as the water temperature rises, the coral gets stressed and expels the algae, fading its colour. This is known as Coral Bleaching. If the water temperature remains high, the bleached coral will eventually die. As these reefs collapse it will alter the chemistry of the ocean and the whole ecosystem and surrounding species could face extinction.The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is the world’s largest living organism, however three of the five biggest bleaching events in the Great Barrier Reef’s recorded history have occurred within the past five years. Devastatingly, in those five years, half of the coral in the Great Barrier Reef has died.
There is a crisis in our oceans and one of the main culprits is plastic. Plastic bottles, plastic packaging, plastic bags, containers, nets and one of the most dangerous of all, micro plastics.There is now an estimated 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic in the ocean, 88% of the seas surface is polluted by plastic waste and every day around 8 million pieces of plastic make its way into the ocean.The issue with plastic bottles is that they are a single use item designed to be thrown away and discarded after use. However, unlike an apple core which takes one month to decompose, a plastic bottle will take 450 years. Once in the ocean, the plastic pollution gets caught by ocean currents and literally swept across the globe until it comes into contact with an oceanic gyre, which is a large system of rotating currents.The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is one of five plastic accumulation zones on the planet and is the largest accumulation of ocean plastic in the world, located between Hawaii and California. Once plastic gets into this patch, it is unlikely to ever leave until it degrades into smaller micro plastics. The more pollution that enters the ocean, the bigger it gets. Currently, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is three times the size of France and will only continue to grow unless. There is currently 180 times more plastic in the patch than there is marine life.The health and safety risks for marine animals is obvious, as they confuse the plastic for food. This can endanger the animals in a number of ways including entanglement, choking, malnutrition and death.

Individual actions contribute towards the solution as well, and that’s exactly why we made HERO. By reducing the amount of CO2 you produce as you go about your daily life, and inspiring others to do the same, we can move towards a world where we prevent the damage from happening in the first place.

Check out our active Missions on the app, and discover how you can start your journey today.

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