How does Ocean Acidification impact us?
The oceans provide extraordinary ecosystem services, food, atmospheric regulation services (carbon absorption), cultural and recreation as well as nutrient recycling.
Below are some ways that ocean acidification impacts us:
Some marine ecosystems, particularly those that use Calcium Carbonate to build their shells (such as coral and oyster reefs) could change with increasing ocean acidity. These species are called calcifiers.
“In a future ocean that continues to absorb excess CO2 from industrial emissions, deforestation, and other human activities, sensitive species could lose their protective shells and eventually die out, while other species that build stronger shells could become dominant.
” Source: Ocean acidification: A risky shell game, 6 OCEANUS MAGAZINE Vol. 48, No. 1, 2010 www.whoi.edu/oceanus
Shellfish and reef-forming corals are also at risk from the slightest drop in pH. Less survival of these species means less or diminishing coral reef systems. More importantly, these form the habitats of many algae and phytoplankton, which form the basis of all marine ecosystems.
The oceans play a massive role in the carbon cycle, by absorbing CO2 from the upper layers and transporting them to the ocean beds for storage. This is possible by phytoplankton absorbing the CO2 and sunlight to produce O2 and Carbohydrates. This is called the ‘biological carbon pump’. The efficiency of the pump depends on the amount of CO2 absorbed and the calcium carbonate that is produced. Acidic waters reduce the biological component that absorbs the CO2, thereby reducing the ocean’s capacity to perform its role as a carbon sink.
Shell marine animals (Pteropods):
Acidic oceans may be corrosive to shell animals in the ocean. It is known that shells of some small marine snails in the southern ocean around Antarctica are already dissolving, potentially altering the food webs of that region. Source: Ocean Acidification, Summary for Policymakers,
Third Symposium on the Ocean in a High-CO2 World. UNESCO
Mollusks and Oyster larvae are among the species that have been extensively studied under ocean acidification. It is estimated that by 2100, losses due to declines in mollusk production from ocean acidification could be around $130 billion. Note that the cultural, spiritual, and educational value of the awesome coral reef systems may all be affected, including the shifts that will occur if the acidification continues.
Ocean Acidification. Summary for Policymakers. Third Symposium on the Ocean in a High-CO2 World, Page 10 http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0022/002247/224724E.pdf
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Key words: Ocean-acidification, pH, ocean-acidity, CO2, carbon-dioxide, biological-carbon-pump, calcification, calcifiers, shell-fish, coral-reefs, environmental-issue, biodiversity