When we spew carbon dioxide into our air, it eventually ends up in our oceans, too. This results in global warming’s evil twin: ocean acidification.
As oceans absorb carbon dioxide, or CO2, seawater chemistry changes and the water becomes more acidic. According to scientists, the oceans have become about 30 percent more acidic due to human CO2 emissions and this spells trouble for ocean life.
First of all, ocean acidification depletes seawater of the compounds that organisms need to build shells and skeletons, impairing the ability of corals, crabs, seastars, sea urchins, plankton and other marine creatures to build the protective armor they need to survive. To make matters worse, fish and other ocean organisms may be adversely affected from the rise in acidity in their ocean habitat. Fish are common ocean prey, and plankton are at the base of the ocean food chain, so when these animals suffer, so do the countless animals that eat them. Ocean acidification could disrupt the entire marine ecosystem.
Now there’s fresh evidence that sea life is in danger. A new study finds the world’s oceans are turning acidic faster than at any time in the past 300 million years — a period that included four mass extinctions of species.
The research, published in the journal Science, says that while past spikes in carbon dioxide levels that have turned the ocean acidic were driven by volcanoes and other natural causes, the latest disastrous shift in water chemistry is because of human pollution. Every day, 22 million tons of the CO2 we spew into the air are absorbed into our oceans. “If industrial carbon emissions continue at the current pace,” one researcher says, “we may lose organisms we care about — coral reefs, oysters, salmon.”
Since ocean acidification is one of the gravest threats to marine biodiversity, the Center for Biological Diversity is tackling it head on to protect our oceans from CO2 pollution – help us save the planet’s oceans by signing our petition to reduce global carbon dioxide levels to a sustainable 350 parts per million. Learn more about the Center for Biological Diversity’s work to stop ocean acidification and the study in The Christian Science Monitor.