Introduction: oceans in the earth system
The world's ocean represents 70% of the earth's surface and contains 97% of the entire planet's water. It is a primary driver in the cycles of water and carbon and, through its huge capacity to store heat, plays a crucial role in the regulation of weather and climate. Its biota secure life: marine phytoplankton is responsible for almost half of the oxygen we inhale, and marine fish and shellfish provides food, employment, and livelihood opportunities to millions of people. Yet the oceans are under increasing pressure: three out of every four fish stocks are either fully exploited or overexploited, and the number of people living within 150 km of the coast is expected to increase to a staggering 6.7 million by 2050. This chapter places the oceans in the context of the earth system, discusses its variability and change, the uses we have of its goods and services, and introduces the challenges of sustainable management. It concludes by explaining how the book addresses the issues raised and introduces the rest of the chapters.
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