Even though the twilight zone may seem like it’s on another planet, we humans rely on it in our daily lives. It is an important part of the ocean’s food web, which includes what we buy in the grocery store. It also helps maintain a habitable planet by helping regulate our climate, and is an endless source of curiosity and inspiration for art and for scientific inquiry. Indeed, the more we learn, the more we know how deeply connected we are to the twilight zone and the life that inhabits it.
Linking Humans and
Linking Humans and the Ocean
The twilight zone helps feed the ocean, and, with more biomass than all of the world’s fisheries combined, it could one day help feed us on land. Although the twilight zone is still too deep to fish profitably, several countries are actively investigating ways to harvest fish there to feed aquaculture operations and to make fish oil “nutraceuticals”, including things like Omega 3 supplements.
Supporting the Global Ocean
The twilight zone helps feed the ocean. When twilight zone animals migrate to the surface each night to feed, they become prey for larger animals that live there. And when they journey back to the depths at sunrise, they transport nutrients across different layers of the ocean. Many species, like swordfish and manta rays, also make deep dives into the twilight zone to feed. Many of these animals are economically important to us and ecologically important to the health of the ocean.
We value twilight zone animals, not just for the sustenance they provide, but because we value them as fellow inhabitants of our planet. Some of our favorite ocean creatures, including many species of whales, seabirds, and fish, rely on the twilight zone for food. Twilight zone animals themselves also teach us about our world through scientific research, and because sophisticated technology is required to study them, they encourage us to make technological advancements in our ability to study the ocean, as well.
The twilight zone is remote, but it plays an active role in the ocean’s biological carbon pump, which helps move heat-trapping carbon from the atmosphere and surface ocean to deep water and the seafloor. Perhaps as much as twice the carbon emitted by all the automobiles in the world every year makes this trip, moving through the marine food web and slowly sinking until it’s safely locked away for hundreds or thousands of years.