Thermal pollution refers to a fall in the quality of water contained in water bodies such as lakes, oceans, dams, and rivers as a result of changes in the ambient temperature of such water. One of the common causes of thermal pollution is the usage of water as a coolant by industries and power plants.
A sudden change in the temperature of water in a natural water body due to human activities is also referred to as thermal pollution. It can lead to either a sharp increase or decrease in water temperature.
The change in water temperature of lakes, rivers, oceans, and dams because of man-made industries and human activities is also defined as thermal pollution.
Effects of Thermal Pollution on Aquatic Life
Here are some of the ways in which thermal pollution impacts aquatic life:
1. Diminishes the oxygen level in water bodies: Thermal pollution diminishes oxygen levels in water bodies because as the temperature of the water is raised, the dissolved oxygen escapes from the water body and is converted into atmospheric oxygen. Marine life depends on the dissolved oxygen for survival, and its absence may negatively impact aquatic life.
2. A threat to biodiversity: Since many of the living organisms found in these water bodies will be affected by the sharp temperature changes. This reduces biodiversity given the interdependence that exists among members of a given ecosystem.
3. Toxic: Water channeled back to the water bodies from industries, and power plants may be toxic because it has been exposed to different substances in these places.
4. A threat to aquatic life: Thermal pollution is detrimental to reproduction in marine life. It causes premature hatching of fish eggs and in some cases completely hinders the ability of these eggs to hatch. It can also lead to an increase in bacterial population and thus poses threat to aquatic life.
5. Algae bloom: A sudden increase in the temperature of water may also cause algae bloom since these plants thrive in warm water temperatures. These plants produce natural toxins which are bad for organisms that live in the water bodies. Algae may also hamper the free movement of some marine organisms such as fish.
6. Malnourishment in marine life: The lack of food diversity in the ecosystem will lead to malnourishment since thermal pollution diminishes the food web.
7. Food Scarcity: Unfavorable temperatures may cause food scarcity in the affected water bodies.
8. Migration/Relocation: The migration of aquatic life may occur as organisms that live in these water bodies relocate to places with ideal temperatures.
9. Increased metabolic rate: An increased metabolic rate means that marine animals will expend a lot of energy while accomplishing very simple tasks. Thermal pollution basically causes energy wastage.
10. Disturbance in enzymatic activity of animals: Temperature fluctuations disturb enzymatic activity of animals and affect the normal functioning of the body systems of these organisms.
It is important to preserve aquatic life by preventing thermal pollution. A lot of people imagine that marine life can only be affected by the drainage of waste material into water bodies, but that is not the case. As discussed, temperature fluctuations can also have negative impacts on organisms that live in water.