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The changes in the ozone layer have resulted in an amplified solar UV-B radiation at the earth’s exterior. The depletion has affected the human exposure to radiation with momentous detrimental effects on health. Moreover, the behavioral changes in the society regarding exposure to the sun are rather important, especially since the solar UV radiation has an effect on the human race. The ozone layer is the so-called protective umbrella that offers protection to animals and plants alike from the destructive ultraviolet radiation emitted by the sun. The ozone is the stratospheric layer comprised of gas, situated some kilometers above the earth’s surface. The effects of ozone layer depletion on the ecosystem are limited, insignificant, and could be overcome.
Depending on its position, ozone can be harmful to life on earth or protect it. The ozone is a particle that comprises three oxygen atoms considered to be relatively unbalanced. Ozone is a fundamental aspect for the continued life on earth in spite of it representing a small fraction of the atmosphere. Most of it is situated in the stratosphere, where it shields the earth’s surface from the harmful ultraviolet radiation emitted by the sun (Chakraborty & Chakraborty, 2015). The weakening shield makes humans more at risk of skin cancer and weak immune systems. Furthermore, ozone is harmful since it pollutes the environment and causes lung tissue damage, as well as damages the plants. Hence, there are two types of ozone — the stratospheric ozone (good) and the tropospheric ozone (bad), and everything depends on the balance between the processes that create ozone and the ones that tear it down. Ozone is valuable to humans since it absorbs the ultraviolet energy and converts it into heat. In case the ozone balance is upset, there can be serious consequences on earth, as now the scientists find evidence of changes in the ozone levels.
Human nutrition is also important to the human race. The essential nutrients that support human life and health are proteins, vitamins, and carbohydrates (Anderson, Root & Garner, 2015). Foods supply the human body with essential nutrients that help manufacture new materials and give it the energy needed to help with the chemical reactions. Proteins, carbohydrates, and fats are the sources of energy to the human body, and they constitute most of the diet. These nutrients provide the body with raw materials that help in the building and maintenance of the tissues. They also help to execute metabolic and psychological activities that uphold healthy life.
The UV rays damage the plants and the animals at the microbiological level and cause cancer in humans. The depletion of the ozone layer signifies a reduced protection from the rays of the sun, resulting in an increased exposure to the UVB radiation. According to Searles, Flint, and Caldwell (2001), UVB radiation results in non-melanoma skin cancer and also significantly contributes to the development of malignant melanoma — furthermore, it is associated with the development of cataracts. Additionally, UVB radiation also has an effect on the developmental and physiological processes of plants (Searles, Flint & Caldwell, 2001). The radiation directly affects the growth of the plants by changing their form, through the secondary metabolism, and changes in the distribution manner of the nutrients within the plants. These modifications can cause plant diseases and impinge on the plant competitive balance.
In spite of the available literature regarding the link between the depletion of the ozone layer and human nutrition, the gaps still exist in the research. For instance, there is little information available on the examination of the current link between ozone layer depletion, human nutrition, and the ecosystem. Finding information on the issue is almost impossible due to the lack of sufficient applicable literature to derive information from.
Effects of Ozone Depletion on the Terrestrial Ecosystems
The ultraviolet radiation has had a significant impact on the terrestrial ecosystem by leading to the depletion of biomass and having a negative effect on growth. Searles, Flint, and Caldwell (2001) argue that the UV-B alters the growth of the plants as well as some of their physiological processes. One example of the changes in plants evoked by the exposure to UV-B is the increase in the ultraviolet-absorbing compounds in the leaves of plants, which affect the plants' growth (Searles, Flint & Caldwell, 2001). Moreover, the responsiveness to UV-B is usually characteristic of certain species, and it depends on such environmental factors like drought, mineral nutrition, and the local air pollutants, among others. The differential effects of UV-B on plant species also result in changes in the ecosystem dynamics and between the species’ interactions.
The impact of the elevated ultraviolet radiation on plants also results in the changes of their form or functions through a distorted gene activity, which generally helps them avoid being damaged (Bornman et al, 2015). The UV-B action in most of the indirect effects is evoked by the changes in the plant structure and the timing of the events of the life cycle. There are indirect effects caused by the elevated ultraviolet radiation, such as the breakdown of plant litter to influence the cycling of nutrients. It also affects the susceptibility of plant pathogen that causes plant attractiveness to pollinators and herbivores (Bornman et al, 2015). It can result in the climate change through stimulating volatile organic plant compounds, such as carbons emitted by the plant litter, which can contribute to global warming.
Effects of Ozone Depletion on the Marine Ecosystems
The Photosynthesis of phytoplankton (marine plants) is subdued by UV radiation, which leads to the dwindling in the total production of the aquatic nutrition (Tsang, Sonnemann & Bassani, 2015; Williamson et al., 2014). Increasing amounts of radiation affect the plankton as well as other minute organisms found at the bottom of the oceans. However, the UV-B action has had an impact on the nitrogen fixation mechanism by cyanobacteria affecting the organisms’ development, growth, and other physiological responses. Furthermore, the particulate and dissolved organic carbon is vital in the degradation of living organisms, and thus, it is important in carbon cycling in aquatic ecosystems. The UV-B radiation breaks down the high molecular weight matters and enables them to undergo bacterial degradation (‘Influence of ultraviolet light on Antarctic marine organisms,’ 1999). Additionally, the effects of UV-B radiation on aquatic animals are still evident in spite of the presence of mycosporine amino acids, which offer them partial protection. Corals are directly affected by ultraviolet radiation since it impairs their symbiotic algae, resulting in less organic carbon supply. UV-B is more damaging to the early stages of development of most marine animals such as fish, shrimp, and crab, by decreasing their reproductive capacity and impairing the development of larvae. The ozone depletion has implications on the entire marine food chain and can result in a reduced population of the small marine organisms.
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Ozone Depletion and Food Production
Ultraviolet radiation is among the most effective means of food disinfection. According to Guerrero-Beltran and Barbosa-Canovas (2004), the liquid color or its turbidity has an impact on the optical absorption co-efficiency — the UV light’s penetration capacity reduces while the liquid’s absorption co-efficiency increases. This is an important factor in managing the penetrative depth, which is beneficial for the treatment of foods by using UV light. It means that food presented in a thin film can have an increased efficiency in the inactivation of microorganisms. The exposure to UV light catalyzes the stages of oxidation. The UV light causes the formation of superoxide radicals and lipid radicals, which further induce protein fragmentation, carbohydrate cross-linking, and protein cross-linking (Bintsis, Litopoulou-Tzanetaki & Robinson, 2000). Additionally, UV radiation causes the denaturation of components like amino acids, proteins, and enzymes in milk. Likewise, the water absorbs the UV protons and produces the radicals that cause changes in food components.
Ultraviolet light is beneficial in food treatment, presenting no adverse effects if it is applied in moderation. It allows surface decontamination due to its safety, and leaves no residual effect on the food products that are treated. Ultraviolet treatments also induce desirable changes in fruits and vegetables (Guerrero-Beltran & Barbosa-Canovas, 2004). The health constituents of fresh production increase the oxidation capacity and shelf life due to the UV treatments. It indicates that the ozone depletion improves the quality of fresh products and reduces post-harvest rots.
The occurrence of the ozone layer depletion has led to inquiries regarding its impact on human nutrition, biology, and disease risks. It has resulted in the growth of knowledge regarding some basic biological pathways caused by the exposure to ultraviolet radiation, which affects the human biology. Particularly, changes in the exposure to UV radiation have been associated with skin cancer and other ocular disorders, such as cataract and immune-related diseases. The ozone layer depletion also affects plants and the marine ecosystems by causing changes in the distribution of nutrients, the plant form, and the timing of the phases of development. It also fosters secondary metabolism in plants, which is beneficial to the plant itself and to other plants. Furthermore, the UV radiation also has beneficial implications for food production, such as the inactivation of microorganisms.