Skip to main content

National Monuments At Risk

Valley of the Gods, Bears Ears National Monument. (Bob Wick / BLM)

Aug. 13, 2020

Over the past four years, the Trump administration has launched an unprecedented assault on public lands. National monuments What is a “national monument”? Landscapes of extraordinary cultural, scientific, and ecological value that are protected for the public. have not been spared.

Earthjustice has sued the Trump administration more than a hundred times to curtail its worst excesses, including its attacks on national monuments protected under the law.

Learn about the places we're fighting for.

The Antiquities Act

When President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act into law in 1906, he established a legal framework for the protection of national treasures. The law gives presidents the power to designate monuments on federal lands and waters — an authority granted by Congress that has for more than a century protected landscapes of extraordinary cultural, scientific and ecological value.

Pres. Teddy Roosevelt at Louisiana's Breton National Wildlife Refuge in 1915.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Teddy Roosevelt, 1915.

Every president since — with the exception of presidents Nixon, Reagan, and George H.W. Bush — has used the Antiquities Act to protect iconic places. The law has also been used to protect cultural heritage sites — from Stonewall to Cesar Chavez’s family home — and tell the more complete story of our nation.

In 2017, the Trump administration painted a bull’s eye on 27 national monuments. Any executive order revoking or diminishing a national monument would be contrary to law. The Congressional Research Service itself has found that the Antiquities Act does not authorize the president to repeal national monument designations. Only Congress has that authority. Numerous legal scholars have reached the same conclusion.

"The Antiquities Act of 1906 authorizes presidents to designate national monuments, but it does not give presidents the power to reverse the monuments created by their predecessors,” explained Earthjustice Managing Attorney Heidi McIntosh in a TIME Magazine op-ed.

“Congress’s intent was clear: The Antiquities Act was to be used to protect the nation’s archaeological, scenic, and scientific wonders. Not to destroy them.”

Return to Feature
Map of Bears Ears.
Utah

Bears Ears National Monument

Established: 2016
Bears Ears National Monument.
Photo courtesy of Marc Toso

How is Bears Ears special?
Bears Ears National Monument was designated in response to a concerted effort by the Hopi, Navajo, Ute, Ute Mountain Ute and Zuni tribal governments to seek lasting protection for unique historic and contemporary cultural values and sites.

More than 100,000 Native American archaeological and cultural sites, some dating to 12,000 B.C., are protected in Bears Ears. Tribes continue to visit these lands to hold ceremonies and to connect with their ancestors. (See photos and videos.)

Cedar Mesa Citadel Ruins, Bears Ears National Monument.
Indian Creek, Bears Ears National Monument.
Photos by Bob Wick / BLM
From left: Cedar Mesa Citadel Ruins. Indian Creek.

Why are protections important?
Looting of archaeological sites, uranium mining, off-road vehicle use, and other activities have long threatened the area, and would be curtailed under national monument protections.

What happened?
On Dec. 4, 2017, the Trump administration illegally shrank the monument's boundaries by more than one million acres. The administration has finalized plans to open hundreds of thousands of acres of the original monument to drilling and mining. (See the areas stripped of protections.)

What is Earthjustice doing?
Following in the footsteps of the Native American Tribes who sued the president the day the proclamation was issued, Earthjustice is representing nine conservation organizations in an ongoing lawsuit, charging that administration's actions violated the 1906 Antiquities Act and the U.S. Constitution by eviscerating the monument. (See inside the legal case.)

Close Section

 

Take Action: Defend Bears Ears National Monument

  • Comment from Aaron of Price, Utah: “I am a Utah resident, and I feel strongly that national monuments such as Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante should not be reduced in size. …”
  • Comment from Aaron of Price, Utah: “… They contain unique features, have vast cultural resources and are sacred to Native Americans.”
  • Comment from Daniella of Oakland, California: “I was in the Bears Ears area with my husband just two weeks ago and was astonished at the natural beauty of the area …”
  • Comment from Daniella of Oakland, California: “… We saw pictographs, petroglyphs, granaries, cliff dwellings, and other pre-Columbian Native American sites …”
  • Comment from Anne of Logan, Utah: “Keeping land for future generations is so important. …”
  • Comment from Anne of Logan, Utah: “… Land such as Bears Ears is fragile. It is not just sand but a delicate ecosystem. Any disturbance will be around for eons. …”
  • Comment from Anne of Logan, Utah: “… The land has sacred values and offers escape to those needing to become recharged from every day stresses.”
  • Comment from Susan of Montrose, Colorado: “People need places to relax and escape stresses in their lives, as well as to simply appreciate the beauty of their surroundings. …”
  • Comment from Susan of Montrose, Colorado: “… Hiking in Bears Ears or Grand Staircase is a pleasure people in the West don't want compromised.”
  • Comment from Kathleen of Reston, Virginia: “How can anyone see the breathtaking Bears Ears National Monument and not vow to protect it for years to come? …”
  • Comment from Kathleen of Reston, Virginia: “… Please continue maintaining the national monuments. Your grandchildren will thank you.”
  • Comment from Virginia of Arcadia, Michigan: “We are traveling to the gorgeous and sacred Bears Ears this fall. I hope our children will also get to see it.”
  • Comment from Virginia of Arcadia, Michigan: “I know this area of Bears Ears National Monument well. I have camped in and hiked this amazing land for over 12 years and each time it renews my spirit.”
  • Comment from Virginia of Arcadia, Michigan: “Wild places like this and the other 26 national monuments, are true national treasures that once degraded or eliminated can NEVER be replaced …”
  • Comment from Virginia of Morrison, Colorado: “… Your decision, one way or the other, will have lasting consequences. …”
  • Comment from Virginia of Morrison, Colorado: “… There is no going back if you make the wrong decision where wild places and industry are concerned. …”
  • Comment from Virginia of Morrison, Colorado: “… With all my heart, I ask you to continue to protect our national monuments.”
Cedar Mesa Citadel Ruins, Bears Ears National Monument.
Photos by Bob Wick / BLM
Cedar Mesa Citadel Ruins. Indian Creek.
Map of Cascade-Siskiyou.
Oregon & California

Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument

Established: 2000 (Expanded: 2017)
Annual Visitors: 337,091
Great grey owl, Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.
Southern Long-toed Salamander on lichen covered rock, Parsnip Lakes, Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, Oregon.
Western Fence Lizard, Lincoln, Oregon.
Top row from left: Hans Spliter / CC BY-ND 2.0; BLM. Bottom row: © Steven David Johnson
© Steven David Johnson
Clockwise from top left: Great gray owl (Strix nebulosa). Along the Pacific Crest Trail in the monument, summer of 2015. Pacific chorus frogs (Pseudacris regilla) are a ubiquitous presence in the monument. Tail of a juvenile western skink (Plestiodon skiltonianus). Pacific chorus frogs (Pseudacris regilla) are a ubiquitous presence in the monument.

How is Cascade-Siskiyou special?
The first monument designated specifically for its vibrant biodiversity, the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument protects public forests, meadows, mountains and streams spanning Oregon and Northern California.

Why are protections important?
The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument area serves as a biological corridor for plants and animals to move between distinct eco-regions, providing a gateway for the Pacific fisher, mule deer, gray wolves and spotted owls, among other species, and also a designated winter range for black-tailed deer and Roosevelt elk. Seventy scientists and the governments of the two towns closest to the monument joined a call in 2011 from 15 independent scientists for an expansion of the monument.

What happened?
The timber industry and its allies, who would like to open up these forests for unsustainable logging, have brought three lawsuits.

Trump administration offices have met with county and timber industry representatives challenging the United States in federal district court over the expansion of Cascade-Siskiyou — without public notice to organizations and entities that support the monument, including Senator Wyden, Senator Merkley, and Governor Brown.

What is Earthjustice doing?
Attorneys in Earthjustice's Northwest Regional Office are part of a team defending Cascade-Siskiyou in court.

In 2019, a federal judge upheld the expansion of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, rejecting an Oregon logging company's argument that monument lands should be reserved for timber production only. A federal judge in Washington D.C., however, issued a contrary decision, finding in favor of a timber industry coalition that the monument expansion violated the law.

Both rulings are on appeal to the 9th and D.C. Circuits, respectively. Earthjustice and the Western Environmental Law Center represent Soda Mountain Wilderness Council, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, and Oregon Wild as defendant-intervenors in these cases

Close Section

 

Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.
Bob Wick / BLM
Southern long-toed salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum sigillatum) on lichen-covered rock.
© Steven David Johnson
Sapsucker.
Hobart's Bluff, Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.
Clockwise from top: Bob Wick / BLM. Frank D. Lospalluto / CC BY 2.0. © Steven David Johnson. © Steven David Johnson.
Clockwise from top: Sledding in the monument. Adult male Williamson's sapsucker (Sphyrapicus thyroideus), near Hyatt Lake. Western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis) in the spring. Southern long-toed salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum sigillatum) on lichen-covered rock, Parsnip Lakes area. Sledding in the monument. Southern long-toed salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum sigillatum) on lichen-covered rock.
  • Comment from Steve of Altadena, California: “Having backpacked for weeks in many regions of the Cascade-Siskiyou NM, I have seen, heard, breathed and felt its majesty in person. …”
  • Comment from Steve of Altadena, California: “… Do not turn any part of it over to the greed-filled, profit-minded goals of industrialists.”
  • Comment from Terran of Arcata, California: “The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is some of the most sacred and beautiful land I have ever experienced …”
  • Comment from Terran of Arcata, California: “… You and I and all of us are part of the Earth, deeply connected at our core.”
  • Comment from Judy of Portland, Oregon: “In Oregon and Northern California, we pride ourselves on keeping our lands safe for recreational and ecological activities. …”
  • Comment from Judy of Portland, Oregon: “… Please continue this tradition by maintaining the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument as a special place for all Americans to explore and enjoy.”
  • Comment from Summer of Portland, Oregon: “Oregon is my home. Please do not ruin this beautiful forest of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. …”
  • Comment from Summer of Portland, Oregon: “… It should be maintained for generations beyond to treasure and enjoy. Using it for logging is just a quick money-making scheme. …”
  • Comment from Summer of Portland, Oregon: “… I have two kids, and we love to camp and hike and explore the wilderness. Please don't take this one away.”
Map of Grand Staircase-Escalante.
Utah

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Established: 1996
Annual Visitors: 878,000
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
Photos by Bob Wick / BLM
Left: Canyons of Grand Staircase-Escalante. Right: World-class dinosaur excavations at the monument have yielded more information about ecosystem change at the end of the dinosaur era than almost any other place in the world.

How is Grand Staircase-Escalante special?
Home to dinosaur fossils found nowhere else in the world, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is often described as a “Dinosaur Shangri-la.” In the two decades since the area was protected, paleontologists have unearthed fossils from 21 previously undiscovered dinosaur species. (See photos and maps.)

Why are protections important?
Fossils are largely found in the Kaiparowits Plateau, where the coal industry has long coveted access for mining. Without its protected status, Grand Staircase-Escalante would be vulnerable to coal mining and oil and gas development.

What happened?
On Dec. 4, 2017, the Trump administration stripped protections from more than one million acres of Grand Staircase-Escalante. Management plans finalized by the administration in 2020 opened hundreds of thousands of acres of the original monument to drilling and mining.

What is Earthjustice doing?
Representing eight conservation organizations, Earthjustice sued the administration within hours of the announcement, challenging the order as an abuse of the president’s power. The lawsuit is ongoing. The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and Natural Resources Defense Council are co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit and represented by in-house counsel. (See inside the legal case.)

Two decades earlier, Earthjustice, on behalf of conservation groups, successfully defended Grand Staircase-Escalante when two Utah counties sought to expand use of off-road dirt bikes and ATVs within the monument area.

Close Section

 

Take Action: Defend Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

  • Comment from Melanie of West Point, Utah: “I have visited Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. It's a unique, incredibly beautiful place that …”
  • Comment from Melanie of West Point, Utah: “… I feel strongly should remain protected so my children, grandchildren, and all who revere such untouched landscapes like it may still enjoy it as it is now. …”
  • Comment from Melanie of West Point, Utah: “… It is irreplaceable and, once put to other uses, would be gone forever. …”
  • Comment from Melanie of West Point, Utah: “… Don't let that happen to any of the many national monuments in this country, including Bears Ears in my home state of Utah!”
  • Comment from Roberta of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: “If you have any doubt that Grand Staircase should remain a national monument, go and see it for yourself. …”
  • Comment from Roberta of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: “… To see it is to know it MUST be preserved.”
  • Comment from Lindse of Millcreek, Utah: “Grand Staircase is one of the most beautiful pieces of land in the world …”
  • Comment from Lindse of Millcreek, Utah: “… and a place that my family and I frequent for camping, hiking and backpacking trips to enjoy the beauty and peace. …”
  • Comment from Lindse of Millcreek, Utah: “… Please help protect and preserve this monument for future generations to enjoy and create their own memories.”
  • Comment from Richard of Henderson, North Carolina: “I have made personal visits to Grand Staircase-Escalante, and by so doing, helped the local economy. …”
  • Comment from Richard of Henderson, North Carolina: “… I would never have visited the Grand Staircase area had it not been designated as a national monument …”
  • Comment from Richard of Henderson, North Carolina: “… so I am testimony to the fact that it helps the local economy. …”
  • Comment from Richard of Henderson, North Carolina: “… This is a treasure of natural history and native culture that should be protected for future generations.”
  • Comment from Richard of Henderson, North Carolina: “… I urge you to keep the designation of national monument status.”
Map of Northeast Canyons and Seamounts.
Atlantic Ocean

Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument

Established: 2016
Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument.
NOAA OKEANOS Explorer
Clockwise from top left: Ctenophore that has ingested another ctenophore (visible within), between Powell and Lydonia Canyons. Chimaera, deep-sea fish, Lydonia Canyon. Rarely seen pompom anemone, Physalia Seamount. White sponge with purple crinoids, Retriever Seamount. "Feather star" crinoids on bamboo coral, Mytilus Seamount. Octopus, Physalia Seamount.

How are the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts special?
The seamounts protected by the monument are biological oases of marine life and are the only ones found in U.S. Atlantic waters. Centuries-old cold-water corals form the foundation of this deep-sea ecosystem.

The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument is a refuge for marine life and a buffer for the northwest Atlantic against the worst impacts of climate change. It is located off the coast of Cape Cod, Mass., and is the nation’s first major marine national monument in the Atlantic. (See photos and videos.)

Why are protections important?
With these areas will go some of our best hope for restoring ecosystems that have been devastated by decades of overfishing and development. The deep ocean is becoming more accessible to oil and gas exploration and industrial fishing with each advance in technology. If remaining marine reserves are not permanently protected now, they risk being destroyed.

What happened?
On World Environment Day in 2020, the Trump administration issued a proclamation that exposes the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts to harmful commercial fishing and resource extraction activities, such as bottom-scouring fishing.

What is Earthjustice doing?
“We condemn this action,” said Steve Mashuda, managing attorney of Earthjustice's Oceans Program, in response to the president's actions. “And we are looking at every tool we have to support the fight against this.”

This isn’t the first time that industrial interests have threatened Northeast Canyons and Seamounts. Earthjustice — on behalf of our clients Zack Klyver, head naturalist at Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company in Maine, and the Center for Biological Diversity — and other groups intervened in an earlier lawsuit, opposing a fishing industry challenge to the designation of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts. On Oct. 5, 2018, the D.C. District Court upheld President Obama’s designation of the monument.

Close Section

 

Take Action: Defend Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument

  • Comment from Edith of Albany, New York: “The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument is in a region where fisheries are just not yielding as much fish as formerly. …”
  • Comment from Edith of Albany, New York: “… It is economically needed to leave this National Monument alone so that it can act as a nursery from which fish emerge for the fishermen in the region.”
  • Comment from Jean of Santa Cruz, California: “I want to comment in particular on the marine Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument. …”
  • Comment from Jean of Santa Cruz, California: “If you destroy its protected status, you will also destroy one of the very important nurseries for the Atlantic ocean fisheries. …”
  • Comment from Jean of Santa Cruz, California: “… It is imperative for the future of our food sources, as well as the health of the ocean in general, to protect some of these very special marine places, like this very national monument. …”
  • Comment from Jean of Santa Cruz, California: “… There are very valid reasons why this place was chosen and protected. You will be hurting everyone in the end if you open this area up for grabs. …”
  • Comment from Jean of Santa Cruz, California: “… Please take protect the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument, as well as ALL of the other national monuments!”
  • Comment from Chris of New York, New York: “Growing up in New England, I know how important a healthy marine environment is to those coastal communities. …”
  • Comment from Chris of New York, New York: “… Please, I urge you to not roll back protections for the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument. …”
  • Comment from Chris of New York, New York: “… We need to protect and preserve that environment & not squander it.”
  • Comment from Mark of New York, New York: “Living in New York City, and frequently visiting Cape Cod, I am particularly concerned regarding the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument. …”
  • Comment from Mark of New York, New York: “… The marine animals of the North Atlantic who live there or periodically pass through there are precious, …”
  • Comment from Mark of New York, New York: “… and it is an enlightened thing to preserve this sanctuary for them in that location.”
  • Comment from Ann of Scarborough, Maine: “Having witnessed the devastating effects of the extraction industry in several land ecosystems (coal in Appalachia and in Colorado) …”
  • Comment from Ann of Scarborough, Maine: “… I feel strongly that this industry should not be permitted to wreak its havoc on ocean seamounts. …”
  • Comment from Ann of Scarborough, Maine: “… I vehemently oppose removing the protection of National Monument status from Seamounts and all other recently designated National Monuments. …”
  • Comment from Ann of Scarborough, Maine: “… Do not be the man that historical footnotes describe as removing protection from the national treasures belonging to all Americans.”
Map of Papahānaumokuākea.
Hawaiʻi

Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument

Established: 2006 (Expanded: 2016)
Baby honu (green sea turtle, Chelonia mydas).
Koa Matsuoka / NOAA
Baby honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles, Chelonia mydas).

How is Papahānaumokuākea special?
Home to extensive coral reefs supporting 7,000 marine species, the undersea Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is important habitat for the threatened green sea turtle, endangered Hawaiian monk seal, and 22 species of seabirds. The protected area is where Native Hawaiians believe all life began and where spirits return after death.

Planning for the monument's expansion, which was supported by the state's governor, included more than 135 community meetings across all of Hawaiʻi’s islands. As a result of this dialogue, the final size of the expanded monument was changed to ensure access to fishing grounds used by small-boat fishermen. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs is a co-trustee of the monument, which gives Native Hawaiians a say in the monument’s management.

Backcountry skiing, Haskell Rock Pitch, East Branch of Penobscot.
Kaleomanuiwa Wong / NOAA / CC BY-NC-SA
A ceremonial shrine on Mokumanamana. The island is known for its numerous wahi pana (storied places) and koehana (cultural artifacts).

Why are protections needed?
Despite the abundance of fish outside the monument area, the commercial fishing industry seems determined to maximize private profits at the expense of the public good. Commercial longline fishermen oppose the monument, claiming that it restricts their fishing area. But Hawaiʻi’s longliners have no trouble reaching their annual bigeye tuna fishing quota; in one recent year, it took just seven months to reach the quota.

What is Earthjustice doing?
If attempts are made to lift the restriction on commercial fishing in the monument area, roll back the monument expansion, or even reverse the entire monument designation, "Earthjustice intends to oppose any such efforts in court," said Paul Achitoff, managing attorney at Earthjustice's Honolulu-based Mid-Pacific Regional Office.

Close Section

 

Take Action: Defend Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument

  • Comment from Cheryl of Warren, Minnesota: “I've visited the marine national monument in Hawaiʻi. It was breathtakingly beautiful! …”
  • Comment from Cheryl of Warren, Minnesota: “… Please don't destroy this and other national treasures that are part of our national heritage!”
  • Comment from Susan of River Hills, Wisconsin: “I wept for joy when I learned of the unprecedented expansion of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Hawaiʻi in 2016. …”
  • Comment from Susan of River Hills, Wisconsin: “… It was a visionary decision for our entire world. I fail to now see the vision in decimating this and other national monuments. …”
  • Comment from Susan of River Hills, Wisconsin: “… Who will stand to weep in joy when these lands are destroyed?”
  • Comment from Leslie of Pahoa, Hawaiʻi: “As a Hawaiʻi resident, I find it heartbreaking that you might consider removing protection from the Papahānaumokuākea National Monument here …”
  • Comment from Leslie of Pahoa, Hawaiʻi: “… Think of what you'll be taking from the people: irreplaceable refuges, thrown open to pollution, desecration and destruction. …”
  • Comment from Leslie of Pahoa, Hawaiʻi: “… Please have a heart and let them remain protected. ”
  • Comment from Stephanie of Kailua-Kona, Hawaiʻi: “As a citizen of Hawaiʻi for the past 37 years, I ask you please to protect our Papahānaumokuākea Marine National monument. …”
  • Comment from Stephanie of Kailua-Kona, Hawaiʻi: “… Our oceans have already been defiled by overfishing and climate change. Hawaiʻi already has more endangered species than any other place on the planet. …”
  • Comment from Stephanie of Kailua-Kona, Hawaiʻi: “… Taking all that into consideration, why must you downgrade our beautiful Papahānaumokuākea where many incredible fish and other sea life abound? …”
  • Comment from Stephanie of Kailua-Kona, Hawaiʻi: “… Please think about our posterity.”
  • Comment from Nancy of Lahaina, Hawaiʻi: “This amazing Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument must be protected and cherished. …”
  • Comment from Nancy of Lahaina, Hawaiʻi: “… Please ensure it is not threatened in any way but is protected for generations to come.”
  • Comment from Cynthia of Keaau, Hawaiʻi: “As a resident of Hawaiʻi who has sailed 35,000 sea miles through the South Pacific, I clearly recognize the dangers our oceans are subject to. …”
  • Comment from Cynthia of Keaau, Hawaiʻi: “… The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument must remain protected. No resource is more vital than the health of our environment. …”
  • Comment from Cynthia of Keaau, Hawaiʻi: “… Protect our public lands and waters from exploitation by private enterprise.”
Ainohu kauo (laysan finches, Telespiza cantans).
Ilioholokauaua (Hawaiian monk seal pup, Monachus schauinslandi).
Photos: Koa Matsuoka / NOAA. Videos: NOAA
Top: Ilioholokauaua (Hawaiian monk seal pup, Monachus schauinslandi).
Middle: A high-endemism deep reef fish community at 300 feet, Kure Atoll. Every fish in the video is a Hawaiian endemic species, meaning that they are not found anywhere else in the world. Deep reefs at Kure Atoll were discovered to have the highest levels of endemism known from any marine ecosystem on Earth.
Bottom: Skin diver swimming with manō (Galapagos shark, Carcharhinus galapagensis).
Clockwise from top left: ʻAinohu kauo (laysan finches, Telespiza cantans). Ilioholokauaua (Hawaiian monk seal pup, Monachus schauinslandi). Skin diver swimming with manō (Galapagos shark, Carcharhinus galapagensis). A high-endemism deep reef fish community at 300 feet, Kure Atoll; every fish in the video is a Hawaiian endemic species, meaning that they are not found anywhere else in the world. Deep reefs at Kure Atoll were discovered to have the highest levels of endemism known from any marine ecosystem on Earth.