Terminal diagnosis for ocean creatures

Rising acid levels in the Southern Ocean will start destroying sea life within 30 years, three decades earlier than previously thought, Australian climate change researchers warned yesterday.

Much of the carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere by human activity is absorbed by the oceans, causing the sea water to become more acidic.

Scientists had previously predicted that when carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached 550 parts per million – compared with about 383 parts per million today – the oceans would become so acidic that the calcium in the shells of sea creatures would start dissolving. However, it was thought it would take 60 to 100 years for such a “tipping point” to be reached.

But new findings by Ben McNeil, of the University of NSW, and the CSIRO’s Dr Richard Matear, suggest rising acidity may trigger “irreversible” destruction of shell creatures far sooner.

Dr McNeil said yesterday that the earlier predictions had been based on average annual atmospheric carbon dioxide projections. They overlooked the impact of seasonal variations in the Southern Ocean.

Richard Macey, The Sydney Morning Herald, 12 November 2008. Article.

1 Response to “Terminal diagnosis for ocean creatures”

  1. 1 gattuso 25 November 2008 at 15:42

    The terminology used in this article is not scientifically accurate. The definition of “acidic” in the Oxford English dictionary is “having the properties of an acid; having a pH of less than 7”. This definition does not apply to un-manipulated seawater now nor in the foreseeable future. Hence, the adjective “acidic” should not be used. Note that there are some exceptions, for example in the immediate vicinity of CO2 vents.

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