Ocean Literacy Standards


Ocean Literacy means understanding the ocean’s influence on you and your influence on the ocean. There are 7 principles of Ocean Literacy — ideas scientists and educators agree everyone should understand about the ocean.

Ocean Literacy website—http://oceanliteracy.wp2.coexploration.org/

Ocean Literacy Standards Checklist


The Earth has one big ocean with many features.

  • The ocean is the dominant physical feature on our planet Earth—covering approximately 70% of the planet’s surface. There is one ocean with many ocean basins, such as the North Pacific, South Pacific, North Atlantic, South Atlantic, Indian and Arctic.
  • An ocean basin’s size, shape and features (islands, trenches, mid-ocean ridges, rift valleys) vary due to the movement of Earth’s lithospheric plates. Earth’s highes peaks, deepest valleys and flattest vast plains are all in the ocean.
  • Throughout the ocean there is one interconnected circulation system powered by wind, tides, the force of the Earth’s rotation (Coriolis effect), the Sun, and water density differences. The shape of ocean basins and adjacent land masses influence the path of circulation.
  • Sea level is the average height of the ocean relative to the land, taking into account the differences caused by tides. Sea level changes as plate tectonics cause the volume of ocean basins and the height of the land to change. It changes as ice caps on land melt or grow. It also changes as sea water expands and contracts when ocean water warms and cools.
  • Most of Earth’s water (97%) is in the ocean. Seawater has unique properties: it is saline, its freezing point is slightly lower than fresh water, its density is slightly higher, its electrical conductivity is much higher, and it is slightly basic.
  • The salt in seawater comes from eroding land, volcanic emissions, reactions at the seafloor, and atmospheric deposition.
  • The ocean is an integral part of the water cycle and is connected to all of the earth’s water reservoirs via evaporation and precipitation processes.
  • The ocean is connected to major lakes, watersheds and waterways because all major watersheds on Earth drain to the ocean. Rivers and streams transport nutrients, salts, sediments and pollutants from watersheds to estuaries and to the ocean.
  • Although the ocean is large, it is finite and resources are limited.

The ocean and life in the ocean shape the features of the Earth.

  • Many earth materials and geochemical cycles originate in the ocean. Many of the sedimentary rocks now exposed on land were formed in the ocean. Ocean life laid down the vast volume of siliceous and carbonate rocks.
  • Sea level changes over time have expanded and contracted continental shelves, created and destroyed inland seas, and shaped the surface of land.
  • Erosion-the wearing away of rock, soil and other biotic and abiotic earth materials-occurs in coastal areas as wind, waves, and currents in rivers and the ocean move sediments.
  • Sand consists of tiny bits of animals, plants, rocks and minerals. Most beach sand is eroded from land sources and carried to the coast by rivers, but sand is also eroded from coastal sources by surf. Sand is redistributed by waves and coastal currents seasonally.
  • Tectonic activity, sea level changes, and force of waves influence the physical structure and landforms of the coast.

The ocean makes Earth habitable.

  • Most of the oxygen in the atmosphere originally came from the activities of photosynthetic organisms in the ocean.
  • The first life is thought to have started in the ocean. The earliest evidence of life is found in the ocean.

The ocean supports a great diversity of life and ecosystems.

The ocean is largely unexplored.

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