Ocean Acidification: The Devastating Truth

Written by on March 12, 2014 in Coral Reefs, Other News
Process of ocean acidification.

Process of ocean acidification. Image credit: NOAA.

Researches have confirmed that ocean acidification has increased alarmingly due to the human activities that have added more CO2 to the atmosphere. Out of all these activities, economic or otherwise, the transportation system accounts for almost half of harmful air pollution, more than a third of greenhouse gas emissions, one quarter of common air contamination and almost one-fifth of water toxicity. According to the figures from Global Carbon Budget, the annual global carbon emission was set to reach record 36 billion tonnes at the end of 2013. The project also launched a new Global Carbon Atlas – an online platform showing the world’s biggest carbon emitters.

Climate change is causing the world’s ocean to acidify at a rate never seen before and the only way to moderate this is to reduce the emission of the deadly CO2. The UNFCCC Warsaw Climate Change Conference, held in November 2013, confirmed that the acidity of the ocean may increase by around 170% by the end of this century bringing alarming economic losses. Most of the developing countries who rely on the ocean’s ecosystem for their sustenance will face a vulnerable situation because of these losses.

Ocean Acidification Will Affect Your Protein Intake, Financial Gain And Lifestyle

The Third Symposium on the Ocean in a High-CO2 World, confirmed that carbon dioxide emission from human activities is the prime cause for ocean acidification. Experts at the symposium concluded that marine ecosystems and biodiversity are likely to change as a result of ocean acidification, with far-reaching consequences for society.

According to the oceanographers, the ocean acts as a sinkhole, one that absorbs the CO2 from the atmosphere. As the oceans acidity increases, it’s capacity to absorb the CO2 decreases, which will result in reducing the oceans role in moderating climate change. The following paragraphs will give a brief insight on the alarming effects of increased CO2.

Ocean Acidification Disturbs The Marine Ecosystem

Coral reef in Palau.

Coral reef in Palau. Photo credit: NOAA.

Corals, calcareous phytoplankton, mussels, snails, sea urchins and other marine organisms use calcium (Ca) and carbonate (CO3) in seawater to construct their calcium carbonate (CaCO3) shells or skeletons. The increase in acidification has reduced the availability of carbonate, which makes it difficult for organisms to secrete CaCO3 to form their skeletal material. The detrimental effect of acidity is currently being felt profoundly in the Arctic and Antarctic oceans, where the cold waters hold more carbon dioxide. The increase in acidity of the water will result in further damage to the shells and skeleton of the marine organisms.

Tropical coral reefs are being directly threatened by the increased amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide entering the oceans, and some reefs are already showing signs of decline. Nearly 500 million people depend on healthy coral reefs for sustenance, coastal protection, renewable resources, and tourism. An estimated 30 million of the world’s poorest people depend entirely on the reefs for food. The increase in CO2 concentrations has resulted in warmer water temperatures, which directly result in decay and slow growth of coral reefs.

According to the experts, if society continues on the high emissions route, cold water coral reefs, located in the deep sea, may be unsustainable and tropical coral reef erosion is likely to outpace reef building in this century. Changes in the carbonate chemistry of the ocean also have a strong negative impact on many plankton and zooplankton species that form the base of the marine food chain. Other than the rising carbon dioxide emission, pollution and overfishing and other onshore drilling activities also play a key role in the increased rate of CO2 emission.

Billions Will Risk Their Jobs

Olympia oysters.

Olympia oysters. Photo credit: NOAA.

Oceanographers say there is very little known about the direct effects of ocean acidification on commercial fishing. But it will surely affect the many fishing industries decreasing an important and healthy food source.

The decline in shell fisheries aquaculture is inevitable, owing to the sensitivity of the mussels and oysters to the ocean acidification. Early estimates show a potential $130 billion economic loss to due to decline in shell fisheries by 2100.

The rich oyster farms off the West Coast of the United States are under threat. As the acidic water levels will rise to hit these hatcheries, oysters in their larval stages will be adversely affected.

The destruction of marine habitats and the extinction of ocean species will ultimately lead to devastation of 1 billion livelihoods that depend on the ocean to survive. A large proportion of these losses will occur in vulnerable societies and small island states that economically rely on coral reefs. Coral reef losses will negatively affect tourism, food security, shoreline protection and biodiversity.

Ocean Acidification A Threat To Food Security

Ocean acidification is expected to affect the food supply of many nations by increasing drought, heat waves and torrential downpours.

Fish and seafood are an important source of protein for billions of poverty stricken people. Oysters, fish, clams, and corals are some of the most consumed seafood around the world.

High temperatures are resulting in fish migrations. Though this may not be major problem for countries like U.S., who own modern fishing fleets, this can be a major cause of worry for smaller countries who are dependent on local fishing fleets.

The disparities in the resources between the rich and poor countries will directly relate to undernourished population. The increase in acidification will affect all the neighboring coastlines simultaneously, hence there will be decline in seafood export and import from neighboring countries.

To Conclude

Carbon emissions clearly is a harmful problem affecting every inch of our existence on earth. This may mean that the human race will continue to persist- but in a less rich, diverse, lively, and productive world. Both ocean acidification and global warming are expected to disrupt food production and the availability of fresh water in many parts of the world.

An immediate action to reduce the amount of CO2 discharge will save our ocean beds from further damage. That will involve actions such as: energy conservation, use of renewable energy sources, and so forth.

It is true that when it comes to climate change the future is not determined by chance but by choice. We can choose to ignore the science, or we can change our ways and reduce carbon emissions and our dependence on fossil fuels. It’s up to us and our leaders to consider and promote energy alternatives and other solutions.

So the next time think twice before you zoom out in you flashy cars, or leave the lights on all day long. You are adding on to the CO2 that is acidifying our nature’s beautiful canvas. Switch to modernized renewable energy systems and keep the environment clean and healthy for your families.

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Penny Olmos is associated with Holloway Houston, Inc. a leading industrial lifting equipment manufacturing company. Her writing is backed by knowledge gained by her many years of experience partnering with clients to build their business through development and implementation of track-proven Internet marketing strategies.

Copyright © 2014 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

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