“The havoc wreaked by ocean acidification is unfolding faster and more severely than anyone thought it would. Coral reefs are collapsing, and food chains may break apart as our oceans go through a dangerous transformation. If we’re going to stop this crisis from getting far worse, we’ll need national leadership at the top levels of our government.”
— Miyoko Sakashita, Oceans Director for the Center for Biological Diversity
Let’s revisit a little topic called: Ocean Acidification
To simply put it, the worlds oceans are getting more acidic by the minute. Why should you care? Because it’s changing the chemical balance of the seas, creating detrimental effects on certain animals and ecosystems. The oceans are absorbing large amounts of carbon dioxide – resulting from the vast amounts of fossil fuels we burn every single day – 30-40% of it goes into our oceans making the water pH more and more corrosive. Bet you didn’t know that coral reefs are being lost more than twice as fast as the rain-forests. Yes, it is a big deal.
Many organisms in the ocean – corals, snails, oysters, clams, ect. – have shells or exoskeletons made up of calcium carbonate. In terms of comparing this horrible reality underwater with us humans above water, let’s relate it to a common disease – Osteoporosis. This particular disease weakens bone mineral density, allowing your bones to become weak and fracture easily. With the acidity of ocean water increasing, the dissolution of calcareous material increases – resulting in decreased calcium carbonate shell thickness and overall strength for many animals. Coral reefs are dying, shells of oysters/clams are dissolving, and most importantly the larvae of these ocean animals can’t form a strong shell due the high acidity in sea water and die before they even have a chance to survive.
Here’s a list of proven facts pertaining to ocean acidification:
- Produces more red tides (algal blooms) – which are toxic to fish and other various marine life
- Reef-dwelling fish suffer from brain damage – resulting in a higher chance of being eaten
- By the year 2030 – and anticipated earlier – California’s waters are expected to be highly corrosive to shellfish
- The ocean absorbs 22 million tons (roughly 1/3rd of the total emitted) of CO2 EVERYDAY
- Scientists predict coral reefs will be extinct by the end of the century
- Pacific waters will increase 10x in acidity by the year 2050
- There are approximately 10,000 coral reefs and we are destroying one every other day
A recent study on Pteropods (also known as sea butterflies– key plankton species in the Southern Ocean) explains how alarming and present ocean acidification truly is. Researchers in Antarctica collected sea butterflies in 9 different locations. In the first 8 locations, the specimens looked like the lefthand image below. But on the 9th location, the specimens they collected looked like the righthand image. “Severe dissolution” of the sea butterflies’ shells was determined in the 9th location. The acidity in the 9th location was highly increased due to upswelling, where cold water naturally rises from the depths of the ocean pushed up to the surface by heavy winds. Upswelling is supposed to occur more often as climate change intensifies. Basically it’s safe to say that this occurrence is only going to get more frequent in our seas, resulting in detrimental effects on animals and marine ecosystems as a whole.
Still not convinced that this really effects you? Then check out this video about the ocean acidification effects on the American Northwest shellfish industry. It’s quite eye-opening…