Oceanographer: acid oceans threaten seafood supply

Blue Hill — On Thursday, Oct. 20, Dr. Mark Green will be the featured speaker in the Marine Environmental Research Institute’s Ocean Environment Lecture Series.

He will speak on “Ocean Acidification: Survival of Marine Ecosystems and Seafood.” Green’s lecture begins at 7 p.m. and will be preceded by a reception at 6 p.m. All lectures in the series are free and open to the public.

According to Green, a professor and chair of environmental science at St. Joseph’s College of Maine in Standish, human activities have put so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere it’s dissolving into the surface layer of the ocean and turning into an acid strong enough to destroy young clams within days of exposure.

The implications for clams and other fisheries, for marine ecosystems and for seafood supplies worldwide will be devastating, he said.

Green is an oceanographer and oyster grower. He also is a pioneer in ocean acidification research, garnering international attention and three major grants from the National Science Foundation.

His data was cited in a 2010 industry letter to a U.S. Senate Subcommittee hearing on the Environmental and Economic Impacts of Ocean Acidification. With his most recent grant, Green is focusing research on the impact of acidification on microscopic larval clams in several Maine estuaries.

According to Green, ocean acidification has been on the radar screen for little more than five years.

However, humans have been putting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere 20 times longer than that. Over the last 100 years, the level of acid in the ocean has increased by 30 percent. Said Green, “We’re changing the chemistry. The ocean can’t keep up with the amount of acid that we’re putting in.”

Focusing his research on small, larval and juvenile-sized bivalves, Green said that, when exposed to ocean acidification, pitting on the outside of a shell is visible within 24 hours; by 72 hours the shell is corroded; between two and three days, there is almost a complete destruction of the shell.

Green said there is no single solution to ocean acidification, but there are many smaller solutions that can slow its rate, all of which involve reducing carbon emissions. This means finding low-carbon energy sources, increasing car fuel efficiency, limiting deforestation and using alternative energy.

MERI, located at 55 Main St. in Blue Hill, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the marine environment and human health through scientific research and education. For more information, call 374-2135, email info@meriresearch.org or visit meriresearch.org.

Bar Harbor Times Soup, 12 October 2011. Article.

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