Warning over ocean acidification

Rapid ocean acidification could affect the ability of marine organisms to survive, a study has revealed.

A new model, capable of assessing the rate at which waters are acidifying, suggests that changes in the deep ocean may surpass anything seen in the last 65 million years.

The research by the University of Bristol also predicts higher rates of environmental change at the ocean’s surface, jeopardising the ability of vital plankton to adapt.

The oceans are now absorbing about a quarter of the CO2 released into the atmosphere, forcing the pH of the surface ocean down, in a process known as “ocean acidification”.

If the pH continues to fall, we may see the shells of marine organisms begin to dissolve, slower growth, muscle wastage, dwarfism or reduced activity, with knock-on effects throughout the ecosystem.

The team applied a model that compared current rates of ocean acidification with a greenhouse event at the Paleocene-Eocene boundary, about 55 million years ago.

news.uk.msn.com, 17 February 2010. Full article.

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book