Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Surprising Levels of Acid in our Oceans

A new study by scientists at the University of Chicago has found that rising ocean acid levels in the Pacific Ocean are making it more difficult for coral polyps to create reefs and are impeding the ability of marine organisms such as mussels, clams, and oysters to produce the calcium needed to generate their shells. Scientists have shown that acidity levels in the ocean were ten times greater than previously thought.

This study and other recent research links increased atmospheric carbon dioxide to a decline in ocean alkalinity. Scientists believe that "atmospheric CO2 concentrations could exceed 500 ppm by the middle of this century, and 800 ppm near the end of the century. This increase would result in a decrease in surface-water pH of ~0.4 by the end of the century, and a corresponding 50% decrease in carbonate ion concentration (5, 9). Such rapid changes are likely to negatively affect marine ecosystems, seriously jeopardizing the multifaceted economies that currently depend on them." [1]

Rising levels of ocean acidity are a concrete (and scary) indicator of things to come in the age of global climate change. This recent research about ocean acidity shows that conditions severely detrimental to our marine ecosystems could develop "within decades, not centuries as suggested previously". [2]

For a recent article about the University of Chicago study, visit:

[1] Feely, Richard A.; Sabine, Christopher L.; Hernandez-Ayon, J. Martin; Lanson, Debbie; and Hayles, Burke, "Evidence for Uprising of Corrosive "Acidified" Water onto the Continental Shelf", Science 320, 1490 (2008)
[2] Orr
et al, "Anthropogenic ocean acidification over the twenty-first century and its impact on calcifying organisms", Nature 437 (2005)

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