Ozone is a gas in the atmosphere that protects everything living on the Earth from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays from the Sun. Without the layer of ozone in the atmosphere, it would be very difficult for anything to survive on the surface.  Plants cannot live and grow in heavy ultraviolet radiation, nor can the plankton that serve as food for most of the ocean life. The ozone layer acts as a shield to absorb the UV rays, and keep them from doing damage at the Earth's surface.