Researchers in Australia have discovered that the tipping point for ocean acidification caused by human-induced CO2 emissions is much closer than first thought, with estimates suggesting that the Southern Ocean could become too acidic by 2030.
According to a report by ABC News, scientists from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and CSIRO looked at seasonal changes in pH and the concentration of an important chemical compound, carbonate, in the Southern Ocean.
The results show that these seasonal changes will actually amplify the effects of human carbon dioxide emissions on ocean acidity, speeding up the process of ocean acidification by 30 years.
The ocean is an enormous sink for CO2, but unfortunately this comes at a cost, according to Dr Ben McNeil, senior research fellow at the UNSW’s Climate Change Research Centre.
“The ocean is a fantastic sponge for CO2, but as it dissolves in the ocean it reduces the pH of the ocean, so the ocean becomes more acidic,” said Dr McNeil.
This acidification makes life especially hard for marine creatures such as pteropods – an important type of plankton found in the Southern Ocean – whose shells are made up largely of calcium carbonate.
Medindia.com, 12 November 2008. Article.