Protecting ocean biodiversity

Lesson overview

This lesson looks at how ocean biodiversity can be protected, and includes an in-depth analysis of community conservation in Arran, Scotland. The lesson looks at how seabed communities can recover after human impacts, and the importance of lesser-known seabed species in this process.

Learning outcomes
  • Understand the methods used in protecting marine biodiversity
  • Explain the impact of human activities on seabed ecosystems
  • Identify adaptations of lesser-known species that help seabed restoration
  • Advocate for the process of seabed recovery and the role of MPAs
Lesson steps

1. Threats to ocean life (5 mins)

Introduce the learning objectives using slide 2, and initiate a whole classroom discussion around the health of the ocean and its life using slide 3. Students may talk about climate change, plastic pollution, or overfishing as examples of threats to ocean activity. Some well-known threatened species in the ocean include whales and corals. Turtles and seabirds have also been particularly affected by plastic pollution. There are also several species of threatened sharks (Hammerhead sharks, and Whale sharks).

2. Protecting ocean biodiversity (15 mins)

This section is based around some different ways that humans can protect ocean biodiversity. This information is contained in the Student Sheet Protecting Ocean Biodiversity as well as on slides 5 to 10. Read through this information with the class clarifying any terms that arise.

Students should then answer the questions on the sheet or on slide 11 individually. The answers on slides 12 and 13 can be used for peer or self assessment.

3. Human impact up close (10 mins)

We travel to the Isle of Arran off the southwest coast of Scotland. Here, a community project has established a Marine Protected Area (MPA) to protect the ocean and its life from the impact of fishing techniques such as bottom trawling.

Focus in on this case study using slides 15 and 16. Prep the class that they will be watching three videos in turn. Students should make notes as to what they see and how they feel about it. The first video embedded on slide 18, shows an example of healthy seabed. Student will be able to see a cup coral in the centre, barnacles feeding from particles in the water, and a miniature ‘forest’ of pink. This ‘pink forest’ is actually made up by bryozoans, a colonial animal.

The video embedded on slide 19 is an animation of bottom trawling which is a common fishing technique around the UK. The video shows the damage that this type of fishing does to the seabed communities.

The final video on slide 20 shows what a seabed looks like after trawling. You may want students to contrast this with the video on slide 18.

Use slide 21 to gather student thoughts and feelings on this issue.

4. Seabed superheroes comic (20 mins)

The good news is that, with the right conditions, the ocean can be very resilient and recover. In this section, students will ‘meet’ some of the lesser-known species involved in habitat recovery and create a comic strip detailing their roles.

Set the scene for this section by asking students whether they know of any species that could restore the seabed using slide 24. The answer will probably be ‘no’. Use slide 24 to ask students how we might get abundance back. The answer is in some ‘superhero’ species introduced on slide 25.

Divide students into pairs or groups for this activity. You may wish to allow students to draw their comic strips using the Student Sheet Seabed superheroes comic strip, on larger paper, or using a digital format.

Review the instructions for the activity on the Student Sheet and then hand out the information on the seabed species and the science vocabulary to be used with the relevant Student Sheets.

This information can be reviewed as a whole class if necessary using slides 26 to 39. Slide 40 can be left on the board while students work.

It is likely that students will need to complete this activity for home learning. Another option is to opt out of the final advocacy section below during lesson time.

5. Advocating for the ocean (10 mins)

The lesson ends by looking at how the MPA established in Arran allowed the seabed to recover from the devastation seen in the previous video to a host of life seen in the embedded video on slide 43. Students will be able to sea the arms of brittle stars waving in the waters, edible crabs, bryozoans, and sea squirts.

The last activity is to write to an MP or Government Minister asking for more protection of marine places. A template for this is included in Student Sheet Protect our ocean please.