The world is stunned by the ferocity of wildfires, heatwaves, storms and floods causing havoc and destruction of coastal habitats, devastation of social life, and biodiversity, as a consequence of what humans put or take from the ocean unsustainably undermining the benefits of the Large Marine Ecosystem (LME). The LME provides humans with food, water, energy, nutrients, and protection, contributing to ecofriendly planet. Human activities have grown astronomically to meet the demand of 7 billion people, adding more pressures that alter the state of the Large Marine Ecosystem. The Gulf of Mexico (GoM), LME is identified as most vulnerable to climate effects due to the intensity of anthropogenic activities that undermine the benefits of LME to ecological and economies of the region.
Therefore, the aim of the research is to describe the diversity of ecosystem goods and services provided by the Gulf of Mexico.
The GoM is clustered 5 of the 64 LMEs around the world (Sherman, 2004), located in the southeastern part of North America, bordered with southeastern United States, Eastern Mexico, and Northern Cuba, with three ecoregions namely; the Northern gulf, the Southern gulf and the Floridian making it the 9th largest oceanic basin in the world. The GoM covers a surface area of 700, 000 square miles (1. 6 million square km2) which is twice the state of Texas. The shoreline extends from the straits of Florida to the Caribbean Sea via Yucatán channel.
The Gulf of Mexico is made up 32% continental shelf, 41% continual slope and 24% abyssal plain with a deepest area of 3, 800m. The warm, tropical water serving the GoM flows from Yucatan straits, forming the gulf current with the loop current which spins off to create the Gulf Stream. This important water basin is home to over 15000 species, and a vital center of commerce to the regions, linking industries; oil & gas, shipping, fishing, agriculture, energy and tourism, making it the most heavily focused LME hampered by human activities.
The Gulf of Mexico has a productive biodiversity with solid developments of microscopic fish (Phytoplanktons) a key source of oxygen for aquatic life forms. Chlorophyll is an acknowledged intermediary for phytoplankton biomass and a pointer of eutrophication in the marine condition. The GoM annual average Chlorophyll level is 0. 208mg. m. m-3 which gave a maximum primary productivity of 317 g. c. m-2 between 1998 to 2012.
The LME gives sustained security to the expansive populace of North and Central America in the form of seafood and other animal products i. e. fishing and aquaculture; per capita utilization of fisheries items has expanded in the United States, Cuba, and Mexico (Ward, 2017) and are experiencing an extremely diminished stock of fish & fishery products which is a source of subsistence to the coastal and inland area of the region.
The GoM is endowed with fish and fishery resources which are essential sources of food security. Many coastal communities depend on fishing as a means of their livelihood, recreation, and commerce. For instance, the United States alone accounts for 40% of the continental U. S. commercial fish stocks by weight and 41% of all fish caught recreationally in the United States in 2014.
Aquaculture industries extract 608 million pounds, equivalent to $1. 33 billion in 2014. Collectively, the seafood industry generates over 10. 5 billion dollars in economic activity, ranking US 15th in Aquaculture production.
The LME open to the Atlantic Ocean through the straits of Florida, the Gulf received freshwater flow from 33 major rivers among which are Mississippi River, Alabama, Brazos, and the Rio Grande river. These rivers provide fresh water and nutrients that stimulate plankton growth, which is a good food chain for small fish, shrimp and squid that form the complex food for large fish
The Gulf is the worlds’ most densely populated shipping route, serving 11 US busiest ports and 4 U. S commercial fishing port by weight with oil and gas refining and exploration activities.
The Gulf ocean basin is astoundingly beautiful, diverse marine life with lots of attraction to tourists. The local coastal communities depend on this water for life, a variety of cultures and high influx of tourism makes this water very important for ecological and social terms. Many sports i. e. fishing, recreational activities are popular along the coast of the Gulf regions. Over 87 million people depend on the water for their life & culture, contributing over 34. 9 trillion dollars annual to the region.
The Gulf has a huge deposit of hydrocarbon resources that contributes to the economies of US, Mexico and Cuba, although the US appears to have a strong force to effectively extract the resources because of their resources, technology, and skills. Mexico and Cuba have weak capacity to optimally extract their resources located within the GoM. For instance, US oil production contributes 17% and gas 5% to their national economy. US has 45% refining capacity and 51% natural gas processing capacity. The GoM is also suitable for harnessing tidal energy because of its water current near land masses that produce high tidal currents.
The coastal habitats found in this LME such as the estuaries, mangroves, swamps, corals and coastal marshes, sand domes forms part of the GoM ecosystem. The estuaries aid unique contacts with salt and fresh water creating a very diverse environment for habitats, seagrasses and marshes to absorb man made nutrients I. e. nitrogen and phosphates to reduce sedimentation load from rivers, a natural waste management whilst corals provide a habitat for the 15, 419 species.
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