Acid oceans and nitrogen cycles

It is hardly a revelation that burning fossil fuels is adding increasing amounts of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Less well known, however, is that approximately 30 percent of the CO2 that has been emitted as a result of human activity has wound up in the ocean.

One consequence of this has been a change in the pH of the ocean, known popularly as ocean acidification. A 2005 report by Britain’s Royal Society noted that the average pH of surface seawater had fallen by approximately 0.1 units since pre-industrial times and could fall by 0.5 units by the year 2100. “This pH is probably lower than has been experienced for hundreds of millennia and, critically, at a rate of change probably 100 times greater than at any time over this period,” the report underlined.

One of the particular concerns that researchers have raised about ocean acidification has been its potential impact on calcifying organisms – species that build calcium carbonate shells, skeletons or plates, species like corals, shellfish or coccolithophore algae.

A recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that ocean acidification might have an additional impact: altering the nitrogen cycle in the ocean.

Kieran Mulvaney, Discovery News, 20 January 2011. Full article.

1 Response to “Acid oceans and nitrogen cycles”


  1. 1 Joseph Madlinger 23 January 2011 at 08:31

    Any follow up articles on calcium carbonate precipitating back into the ocean as living or inert material from the increased CO2 in the atmosphere?

    CO2 has been reported as going into solution in ocean water and becoming dissolved along with chilled atmospheric air as it nears the North and South Poles.

    Any thoughts or opinions would be appreciated.


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