What is the Importance of Sharks in our Eco System?

selective photo of gray shark
Photo by GEORGE DESIPRIS on Pexels.com

From landlocked towns to coastal cities, the seas and other large water bodies play a decisive role in our environment. The Ocean’s biodiversity exhales fresh air into our atmosphere and brings food and rainfall to us worldwide. Our life and the life of all the world’s creatures hangs in the balance of this vast life support system. Every creature that lives below the surface adds to that ecosystem, playing an indispensable part in the balancing act that is life on our planet.

Sharks are no exception. 

Sharks have been swimming the world’s seas for more than 450 million years — 150 million years before the first dinosaurs arrived on land. But today, shark communities are being slaughtered by ruthless commercial fishing, putting some incredibly old species in danger of extinction. Sharks have sadly fallen victim to the man-hungry convention society has created for them. However, what the earth should really fear is a world without any sharks. Each year, humans kill more than 75 million sharks worldwide. This includes millions of sharks that are caught annually for their fins, one of the world’s most so-called prized seafood products.

Importance of Sharks in our Eco System

Sharks are often the top or apex predators in their ecosystems because they have close to zero natural predators. As apex predators, sharks feed on the fishes and mammals below them in the food web, helping to maintain and regulate the balance of marine ecosystems. Apex predators instantly limit the populations of their prey, which in turn influences the prey species of those animals, and so on. The intake habits of most top predators are pretty varied. This allows top predators to switch prey species when specific populations are low, thereby allowing victim species to persist.

As apex predators, the sharks play an essential role in the environment by controlling the species below them in the food chain and working as an indicator for ocean health. They help remove the sick and the weak and keep the balance with adversaries helping to secure species diversity.

As the top and intelligent predators, they shift their prey’s spatial habitat, altering other species’ diets and feeding strategies. Through spatial authorities and abundance, sharks indirectly maintain the seagrass and corals reef habitats. The loss of sharks has led to the drop in seagrass beds, coral reefs, and commercial fisheries’ loss.

By keeping sharks out of the coral reef environment, the larger predatory fish, such as groupers, grow in abundance and feed on the poor herbivores. With fewer herbivores, macroalgae expand, and coral can no longer race, shifting the ecosystem to one of algae domination, destroying the survival chance of the reef system.

So, without sharks, numerous other species will collapse, the reefs will be consumed, and the destruction of our Ocean and then us will be inevitable. 

Now You Know

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