Written by David DeFranza
The ocean is a delicate place, and tiny changes to its composition can cause serious devastation.
Adding carbon to the atmosphere contributes to global warming and climate change. Another less-discussed impact is ocean acidification—whereby carbon molecules diffuse into the ocean from the atmosphere, causing a steady rise in acidity—even though the impacts are already being felt by many species.
1. Blue Sea Slug
The beautiful blue sea slug, seen here, is one such creature. Blue sea slugs feed on the poisonous Portuguese man of war jellyfish, meaning that an ocean without them would be an ocean with a lot more stinging jellyfish.
Top photo from Gregory Moine via flickr.
Pteropods, too, are threatened by ocean acidification.
They may not look like much, but these tiny creatures are the foundation of arctic food webs that support larger marine animals like whales and polar bears. As the ocean becomes more acidic, pteropods actually begin to dissolve.
3. Brittle Star
Brittle stars, which are an important food source for flat fish, have been found to be highly vulnerable to ocean acidification in both adult and larval forms.
Acidic water has been found to interfere with squids’ blood, making it harder for them to absorb oxygen.
In addition to being an important part of marine food webs, squid are also part of lucrative markets around the world.
Shrimp, too, are immediately threatened by ocean acidification.
Even more than squid, these crustaceans represent an important part of food webs and livelihoods around the world.
Oyster populations around the world have been suffering through a sudden crash.
Research has shown that the culprit here too is ocean acidification.
7. Sea Urchin
Sea urchin are beautiful, but their significance in the ocean goes well beyond their looks.
These invertebrates play a crucial role in maintaining reef ecosystems by eating algae and preventing blooms.
Abalone is another economically important sea creature threatened by ocean acidification.
Research has shown that the species may not survive 100 years at current rates of acidification.
Coral, which has already suffered from acidification around the world, is perhaps the best known victim of the alarming trend.
With the loss of coral comes the loss of some of the ocean’s most vibrant and diverse ecosystems.
10. Clown Fish
Finally, the charismatic clown fish has been found with a higher instance of deafness and increases in brash behavior in more acidic waters—both of which lead to poor performance against the fish’s numerous predators.
This post was originally published by Treehugger.