Ocean Acidification: A Growing Problem

By December 19, 2012Ocean News

    Ocean acidification is a process whereby the pH in the Ocean is lower than the average (pH = 8.4). It’s is a natural process, which can change between areas and at different times of the day. But now Ocean acidification is happening faster than ever.

This is really dangerous because we are giving no time to the species to be able to adapt to changes in the Ocean. The main cause, as we have seen on a previous article, are the CO2  (Carbon Dioxide) emissions. I mean, it can be attributed to human causes (surprise!).

Recently, scientists have discovered proof of the acidification impact on an Antarctic snail (Limacina helicina antarctica), and this impact can be extendible to some animals with calcium-based skeletons like corals, and all animals with a shell, like shellfish. These animals absorb calcium carbonate from the water to make their shells. Calcium carbonate is formed using CO2 in the water that is absorbed from the atmosphere. Only problem is there cannot be too much of it in the water because it will cause the water to become more acidic.

Increased carbon dioxide will cause the dissolution of the calcium carbonate (also known as aragonite). It will affect not only the aragonite in their environment, but the aragonite in their own shells. The same study established that the ocean is already more acid, with a drop of 0.1 pH units, which may not seem like a lot but, trust us, it is. It makes the water 30% more acidic than it was before the industrial revolution.

Ocean Acidification

But this not only affects snails and corals. There are microscopic organisms called phytoplankton and zooplankton who are made up of calcium carbonate, because they have different sorts of calcificated structure. Even though they are tiny species, they are the basis of the ocean food chain, which means without them, the ocean would not be the beautiful place it is today.

Even with this facts, you can still find some scientists and recent studies which claim that this is just a scare campaign, made to demonize CO2. But it is time to do something. Washington State is leading this war against acidification, because of their large shellfish industry. Their 3.3 billion plan consists in 3 steps: adaptation, mitigation and remediation.

This action includes leaving shells on the seafloor, to increase the environmental aragonite, or cultivating seagrass and shellfish together, because of the CO2 sequestration ability found on seagrass. It also includes general recommendations as reduce transportation-related CO2 emissions. Plans like this one are easy to do in developed countries, but most of the coral reefs are at the poorest areas, and there’s a lot of people depending on them.

Should we demand some action from the international political organizations?

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