Since the beginning of the industrial revolution a quarter of the carbon that has been released into the atmosphere was absorbed by the oceans. As a result the acidity of the oceans has increased by %30. Increasing acidity makes it corrosive dissolving the calcium shells of marine organisms. Ocean acidification will affect fisheries by disrupting the very base of the food-webs. Sea urchins, hermit crabs, lobsters, coral polyp prefer ocean water with a pH of about 8.2 in order to be able to assemble hard parts using carbon-based building blocks dissolved in the ocean. Warming ocean waters in a warming climate is already taking it’s toll in coral reefs and ocean acidification will further stress these critical habitat building organisms:
Today the oceans pH dropped to 8.05 on average. Biologists like Gretchen Hofmann are realizing that this change towards acidity is making life more difficult for hard shelled organisms especially during their early development. To learn more, Hofmanns team has recreated an acidic ocean in a lab at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and is testing how the change affects sea urchins.
Ocean Acidification is a problem that receives less attention but must be dealt with urgency since turnover rates in oceans is much slower than the atmosphere. Attempts to mitigate and even reverse ocean acidification may take effect at much longer time scales. One point is extremely clear. We must reduce our carbon emissions and one example comes from the Norvegian Sleipner Gas Field:
Science Bulletins is a production of the National Center for Science Literacy, Education, and Technology (NCSLET), part of the Department of Education at the American Museum of Natural History.