What The Acidification of Our Oceans Means For Our Future
Ocean acidification, also known as “climate change’s equally evil twin” (Bennet), is a big issue worldwide as it impacts aquatic ecosystems by not only damaging the habitat but also harming the living organisms.
Since the industrial revolution, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased by 40% (BBC), and the ocean has absorbed over 500 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The carbon dioxide that the oceans absorb combines with the seawater to form carbonic acid. This causes the ocean to become more acidic, hence reducing the pH level of the ocean. Since the industrial revolution, the ocean’s pH level had reduced by 0.1 (it dropped from 8.2 to 8.2). Although this may not seem like a great increase in acidity, it actually conveys that since the industrial revolution, the acidity of the ocean has increased by 30% (NOAA).
The effects of this increase in acidity of the ocean are visible in many of the living organisms in the ocean, especially aquatic organisms that have hard shells and skeletons. Ocean acidification heavily impacts aquatic organisms that have hard shells and skeletons built from calcium carbonates, such as corals, clams, and crabs. Acidification reduces the availability of carbonate ions in the seawater, hence these organisms are unable to maintain their hard shells and skeletons; they need sufficient amounts of carbonate ions to maintain their shells and skeletons. This significantly reduces the chances of these organisms and their offspring to survive (USCUSA). On top of this, these organisms are usually at the bottom of the food chain, hence their depletion will heavily impact the entire aquatic ecosystem.
Corals are one of the many aquatic organisms that are heavily affected by the increase in the ocean’s acidification. Coral reefs are one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet, however as oceans get more acidic, coral growth gets increasingly limited. Acidification also leads to corals being more susceptible to erosion, hence disrupting the ecosystem that lives in the coral reefs. A study lead by scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) found that the skeletons of corals in more acidic oceans were significantly thinner, hence more vulnerable to breaking (Sciencey Daily). These findings show that as the oceans get increasingly acidic, coral reefs are unable to maintain their hard skeletons, hence endangering the lives of the millions of aquatic organisms that live in the reefs.
Ocean acidification is not only detrimental to the aquatic ecosystem but it also heavily impacts the millions of people that depend on aquatic organisms for and income and for protein. Many shellfish fisheries worldwide are unable to make enough profit, hence causing million-dollar losses in the economy. Millions of people worldwide depend on seafood as their main source of protein, however, as ocean acidification increases, there will be less seafood available for consumption, hence leaving millions of people malnourished.
In order to mitigate the effects of ocean acidification in the future, we all need to make an effort to cut carbon emotions. This will gradually reduce the levels of carbon dioxide in the oceans, hence reducing the harmful effects of ocean acidification.
Bennett, Jennifer. “Ocean Acidification.” Smithsonian Ocean, 20 June 2019, ocean.si.edu/ocean-life/invertebrates/ocean-acidification.
NOAA. “Ocean Acidification.” Ocean Acidification | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2020, www.noaa.gov/education/resource-collections/ocean-coasts/ocean-acidification.
BBC. “Weather Centre - Climate Change - Carbon Dioxide.” BBC, BBC, 2014, www.bbc.co.uk/climate/evidence/carbon_dioxide.shtml.
UCSUSA. “CO2 And Ocean Acidification: Causes, Impacts, Solutions.” Union of Concerned Scientists, 30 Jan. 2019, www.ucsusa.org/resources/co2-and-ocean-acidification.
Science Daily. “Scientists Pinpoint How Ocean Acidification Weakens Coral Reefs.” Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, 29 Jan. 2018, www.whoi.edu/press-room/news-release/scientists-identify-how-ocean-acidification-weakens-coral-skeletons/.