Danger beneath the surface: Coral and shellfish under threat as seas turn acidic

Shellfish, coral reefs and other marine animals with exterior skeletons will find it difficult to cope with the speed at which the oceans are turning acidic due to rising concentrations of carbon dioxide, a study has found.

Scientists have calculated that the current rate of ocean acidification today is unprecedented over the past 300 million years, when the seas experienced at least four major mass extinctions involving rising ocean acidity.

In the past 100 years, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased by about a third. This has resulted in a corresponding decrease in the natural alkaline state of the oceans, effectively making them more acidic as CO2 in the air dissolves in seawater to create carbonic acid, scientists said.

The oceans have been more acidic than they are now on several occasions in the past. But the current rate of acidification is many times faster than, for instance, at the time of the “Permian mass extinction” 252 million years ago, which wiped out 95 per cent of marine life on Earth, they said.

Steve Connor, The Independant, 3 March 2012. Full article.


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