Ocean acidity is on the rise

Though the ocean covers nearly three-quarters of the Earth’s surface and provides a livelihood for at least 500-million people, little is known about how it is affected by climate change.

Participants at COP17 said that in coming decades the ocean and coastal regions would become increasingly stressed by at least three factors related to climate change. Impacts on fisheries, shells and corals had already been observed.

“Changes caused by climate change will affect the ocean in ways we are only beginning to understand. It is imperative that international decision-makers understand the enormous role the ocean plays in sustaining life on Earth and the consequences of a high-carbon world for the ocean and society,” said Carol Turley, knowledge co-ordinator of the ocean acidification research programme in the United Kingdom.

The effects of ocean acidification have only come to light in the past decade. Research has shown that the ocean absorbs about 26% of global carbon dioxide (CO2) missions every year, causing a series of chemical reactions that increase the acidity of surface seawater. The rising acidity and decreasing pH levels are bad news for marine organisms with calcium carbonate skeletons or shells, such as oysters, mussels, corals and some planktic species.

Fiona Macleod, Mail & Guardian online, 9 December 2011. Full article.

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