Increased ocean acidity

Carbon dioxide is added to the atmosphere whenever people burn fossil fuels. Oceans play an important role in keeping the Earth’s carbon cycle in balance. As the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rises, the oceans absorb a lot of it. In the ocean, carbon dioxide reacts with sea water to form carbonic acid. This causes the ocean to become more acidic.

What’s happening now?
Over the last few decades, the amount of carbon dioxide dissolved in the ocean has increased all over the world, and so has ocean acidity.

What will happen in the future?
As long as we keep putting extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the ocean will continue to become even more acidic.

Why does it matter?
Increasing acidity will make it harder for corals to build skeletons and for shellfish to build the shells they need for protection. Corals are particularly important because they provide homes for many other sea creatures.

Check out the effects of ocean acidity on plants, animals, and ecosystems.

Take an expedition to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to learn more about how climate change threatens coral reefs

US Environmental Protection Agency, April 2011. Web site.

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