We need to protect Dogger Bank from ourselves and global warming

We need to protect Dogger Bank from ourselves and global warming

The composition of Dogger Bank is mainly soft sand at shallower depths and finer sands at deeper levels. These are two factors affecting the community of living organisms. For example, the softer sands containing shell debris have meiofauna that are food for stingrays and stingrays that prey on invertebrates beneath the sand. The murkier sand would support organisms such as cloth and worm, additional food for these two types of fish. Low oxygen would be another factor where fewer fish would be attracted to the area. Small amounts of zooplankton would not attract the smaller fish that would feed on them, and higher trophic level fish would not be present to feed on them.

Global warming may attract organisms from warmer areas, which may affect relative dominance. Overfishing could remove a particular species, such as herring, from the area, thereby eliminating higher trophic level species that would normally feed on herring. Increased oil exploration can poison the area so that environmentally sensitive species do not remain. Increased agriculture, due to demand, especially with the use of chemical fertilizers, can affect less disease-resistant species, in turn changing the species composition of the area.

If it does not protect Dogger Bank, existing species will move to other parts of the North Sea to breed and feed and will affect those other parts profoundly, upsetting those other ecosystems. By protecting Dogger Bank, existing species will remain and not unbalance other ecosystems. There would almost be a domino effect where areas close to each other would be affected in turn. By focusing on the whole ecosystem instead of one part, it will give more exploited species time to recover and increase the number of trophic levels, which will provide more biodiversity and a healthier environment.

Due to the size of Dogger Bank, regular policing would be very difficult and expensive. Illegal fishing of the highly valued and expensive skates and stingrays will continue. Mining, farming and oil exploration causing pollution, unless completely banned and controlled, would still be a problem. Global warming will be problematic for years to come unless drastic measures are taken in the short term. Another problem could be the legal aspect, trying to impose restrictions on all countries.

Josefine Bank and Gorringe Bank are seamounts or fully submerged volcanoes. Shores have populations of corals, kelp forests, and sessile (non-moving) suspension feeders. Coasts are particularly important as they are considered valuable marine habitats and deserve formal protection for a variety of reasons.

Kelp forests attract quite a variety of species. Organisms that live on algae attract higher trophic feeders, which in turn would attract larger predatory species. Algae are also photosynthetic plants and saturate the sea with oxygen, attracting other species. Corals attract species that live in the calcium carbonate structures they secrete/build. Higher trophic feeders would be attracted to the coral dwellers. Some fish, such as pufferfish and triggerfish, feed on the coral itself. Higher trophic predators will feed on these coral grazers. With just the kelp and coral forests, a diverse, healthy ecosystem already exists (oxygenated water, several trophic levels of species).

There are other reasons for its importance, one of which is its geological composition. It is a large underwater structure and disrupts normal current patterns, causing seawater to rise from lower levels. This upwelling brings with it nutrient-rich water to the surface, which is additional food for different species, again increasing biodiversity. The nutrient-rich water ensures high productivity and an abundance of marine life.

Another important factor is the prevalence of hydrothermal vents, which are a rich source of minerals such as metals. This would be a lucrative source of income for the mining industry. Hydrothermal vents are also an ideal environment for marine and microbiologists to study what may have been the source of the original organism that gave rise to the evolutionary process as we know it now. There are also extremophiles that are found only in this particular environment, such as organisms that can tolerate high temperatures, sulfur and acidic conditions.

However, intensive and increasing extraction of such resources would have a profound impact on the marine ecosystem due to poisoning and increased human activity in the area. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) has a concept of “freedom of the seas”, unfortunately turning this into an MPA goes against the UNCLOS concept, preventing mining in the area.

Other problems include overfishing and illegal fishing due to the amount of marine species available. Global warming will once again affect the balance of the ecosystem.

Protecting Dogger Bank would prove logistically difficult for the police due to its location, many miles from the landmass. Politically, it is surrounded by the United Kingdom, Norway, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. Trying to get approval from all countries to impose a Marine Protected Area (MPA) can be very difficult, especially from Norway and Denmark where fishing is a major industry.

Josefine and Gorringe Banks are located off Spain and Africa, both of which have strong fishing industries, so politically it would be difficult to control the MPA from illegal fishing. With the recent increase in the market value of the metals, many mining companies may be attracted to the area to illegally extract the metals from around the hydrothermal vents.

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