Warning over rising ocean acidity

The oceans are becoming more acidic at a faster rate than for 65 million years because of climate change, a report has warned.

The Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership report card said the increasing acidity of the oceans caused by carbon dioxide could affect the climate further and hit wildlife.

The “ecosystem linkages” report, which looked at the links between different impacts of climate change, also said there had been large reductions in Arctic sea ice and declines in some seabirds as a result of changes to the seas around the UK.

It warned climate change could increase the likelihood of non-native species thriving in the UK’s marine environment, while coastal communities faced threats such as flooding and opportunities including tourism in the future.

The different impacts of a changing climate on our seas are magnified because of their links to one another, the report said, and a “bigger picture” approach is needed to address the problems.

The oceans are a huge store of carbon dioxide, which dissolves in the water, and therefore play a significant role in maintaining stability in the climate.

The absorption of more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as a result of higher emissions makes the seas more acidic, and in the last 200 years ocean acidity has increased by 30%.

The increase is at a rate much faster than any time in the past 65 million years, the report warned.

The increase in CO2 in the ocean will lead to a slowdown in its ability to absorb the greenhouse gas, leaving more in the atmosphere.

Rising acidity will also hit marine creatures including plankton and shellfish, damaging their ability to grow and reproduce, and in the cases of organisms such as corals reduce their capacity to build shells.

PRESS ASSOCIATION, 28 April 2009. Article.

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