How acidification is threatening the world’s oceans

When the amount of carbon in the atmosphere increases a large amount is absorbed by the oceans. This might seem like good news, as it means there is less in the atmosphere to add to climate change. However the oceans are not giant sinks and as the carbon is absorbed it lowers the pH level of the seas. In other words the oceans become more acidic.

This is serious. The acidification of the oceans affects marine life. More acidic waters dissolve the calcium carbonate shells of animals ranging from clams to plankton. Even those without such shells are adapted to a certain chemistry and drastic changes could mean they struggle to survive. Some species may thrive but we might be facing the mass extinction of many others.

Corals are especially vulnerable and coral reefs form the home for countless other species. The loss of large areas of coral reefs has already been seen and represents a great loss of biodiversity. So far the coral bleaching appears to have been caused by a combination of warming waters and pollution. If acidification progresses it could make things worse for the remaining coral.

Judith Willson, Helium, 2 September 2010. Full article.

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