JAN 23, 2020 3:18 PM PST

Scientists Assess the Value of the Ocean's Twilight Zone

WRITTEN BY: Tiffany Dazet

Fifteen years ago, an international cohort of scientists and policy experts introduced the idea of assessing ecosystems by the "services" they provide. These services include goods for direct and indirect use, as well as nonmarket benefits to humans and the environment. Just this week, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute released a report of this kind regarding the ocean twilight zone. This report, summarized in the video below, is the first attempt to identify and characterize the ecosystem services of this mysterious ocean zone.

The mesopelagic zone—or twilight zone as it is popularly referred to—ranges between 200 and 1,000 meters deep under the ocean's surface. According to the report, the upper boundary of the range is the depth at which sunlight cannot support photosynthesis. This zone is full of unusual species, and it's estimated to contain 10 billion metric tons of fishes. While these fish species are not considered a protein consumable for humans, the WHOI report suggests that this valuable biomass could be used to produce fish meal and fish oil to support aquaculture and livestock operations, nutraceuticals, and cosmetics.

The twilight zone is also a carbon sink more extensive than the Amazon rainforest, according to a news release from WHOI regarding the report. Biological processes throughout this part of the ocean sequester two to six billion metric tons of carbon each year—which, WHOI estimates, is up to six times the amount emitted by all automobiles worldwide. The report also estimates that without this ecosystem service, carbon dioxide levels would rise 200 ppm higher than current levels. Scientists estimate the "value" of this climate regulation service at $300 to $900 billion each year.

Deep Sea Coral by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/12019-12019/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=79929">David Mark</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=79929">Pixabay</a>

In the WHOI news release, Porter Hoagland—lead report author and WHOI marine policy analyst—stated, "We need to think carefully about what we stand to gain or lose from future actions that could affect the animals of the twilight zone and their valuable ecosystem services." Continued research on the ecosystem services of the twilight zone—as well as other ocean zones—will inform policymakers and stakeholders and provide further support in achieving sustainability goals.

Sources: WHOI
 

About the Author
  • Tiffany grew up in Southern California, where she attended San Diego State University. She graduated with a degree in Biology with a marine emphasis, thanks to her love of the ocean and wildlife. With 13 years of science writing under her belt, she now works as a freelance writer in the Pacific Northwest.
You May Also Like
DEC 03, 2019
Plants & Animals
DEC 03, 2019
Florida's Manatees Are a Conservation Success Story
Manatees are be a common sight for Floridians who reside close to rivers and other natural waterways, but there was once a time when that wasn’t the...
JAN 09, 2020
Earth & The Environment
JAN 09, 2020
Australian Bushfire Update
Devastating wildfires continue to ravage the continent of Australia. The report from BBC News below, which aired earlier this week, gives an encompassing u...
JAN 16, 2020
Neuroscience
JAN 16, 2020
Early-life Stress and Pollution Lead to Cognitive Impairment
Children exposed to high levels of stress at home from early on and high levels of air pollution while still in the womb are more likely to develop attenti...
JAN 19, 2020
Plants & Animals
JAN 19, 2020
Flying Foxes Must be Careful of Crocodiles When Hydrating
Flying foxes absolutely despise the Sun, and with that in mind, it should come as no surprise to anyone that they look for shade whenever possible. One pro...
JAN 21, 2020
Plants & Animals
JAN 21, 2020
After Hibernation, These Grizzlies Turn to Clams for Nourishment
Grizzly bears spend up to seven Wintery months hibernating, and in that time, they can lose a substantial amount of their body weight. While surrounding ma...
FEB 02, 2020
Earth & The Environment
FEB 02, 2020
Land use in the tropics: what we could do better
Research published recently in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution reports that our collective misuse of tropical lands is negatively impacting the...
Loading Comments...