Understanding the impacts of ocean acidification remains a key challenge

Climate change or no climate change, there is one consequence that is in no doubt: As the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere increases, so will its concentration in the ocean – resulting in ocean acidification.

When CO2 dissolves in seawater it reacts to form a number of ionic and non-ionic  carbon species depending on  the temperature and alkalinity.  The net effect is to increase the concentration of hydrogen ions (H+) and reduce the concentration of carbonate ions  (CO3 2– ). More H+ ions mean lower pH and more acidic conditions; so as more and more CO2  dissolves into the  ocean, the ocean is becoming  more and more acidic. Reducing the carbonate ions means that  calcifying organisms, those that  form shells and coral reefs, have  to spend increasing amounts  of energy on this activity, at  the expense of growth and  reproduction causing long-term  changes to ecosystem structure  and function.

Tagliabue A., & Monteiro P., 2011. The southern annular mode and the weakening of the Southern Ocean CO2  sink. CSIR ScienceScope November 2011: 24-25. Article.


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