Archive for November, 2012

Ocean acidification is killing sea life, and we are the culprits

If the prospect of coastal cities sinking into the sea 100 years from now does not motivate Americans to do something dramatic to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, there is something happening at this very moment that should be setting off sirens. Rising CO2 levels are making the oceans more acidic and that change in the chemistry of the seas is disrupting the food chain that ends with you and me.

For years, as scientists watched the carbon emissions from our tailpipes and smokestacks spew into the sky and goose temperatures higher, there was one mitigating factor that was keeping a brake on global warming: The oceans were absorbing a whole lot of that CO2.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification is killing sea life, and we are the culprits’

CO2 dangerously acidifying world’s oceans

As the effects of global climate change continue to be felt throughout the world’s ecosystems, scientists say greenhouse gases are causing rapid changes that may irreversibly alter the composition of the Earth’s oceans.

It is estimated oceans absorb up to 30 percent of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, helping to offset the overall warming of the planet. But the amount of CO2 being pumped into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution has skyrocketed, saturating oceans and boosting acidification.

Burgeoning ocean acidification raises the spectre of extinctions of coral, algae and shellfish – key cogs in the global food chain – with far reaching consequences for the planet’s inhabitants.

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Washington state targets pollutants that lead to ocean acidification

In the first state-level action of its kind, the governor of Washington today announced that her state will try to protect valuable shellfish industries  and marine life from ocean acidification. Responding to a report that she requested, Governor Chris Gregoire said she has directed state agencies to take steps to reduce the pollutants that contribute to acidification. She also plans to ask the state legislature to establish a new acidification research center at the University of Washington (UW), Seattle.

“A healthy ocean is critical to our health and our coastal economies,” Gregoire said today at a Seattle event marking the release of the report by the Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification. Gregoire created the panel earlier this    year to examine the implications of dropping pH levels in seawater, a trend caused by the ocean’s absorption of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

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Gregoire announces 3.3 million to tackle ocean acidification (audio)

Gov. Chris Gregoire has just released a long awaited report on ocean acidification. At a public ceremony today she announced major funding for the execution of some of the report’s recommendations.

Billions of larval oysters have died in shellfish hatcheries in the Northwest since 2005. Coastal waters are becoming too corrosive for oysters and some other creatures to form their shells.

Continue reading ‘Gregoire announces 3.3 million to tackle ocean acidification (audio)’

State panel calls for stronger action to combat ocean acidification

A panel appointed by Gov. Chris Gregoire made dozens of recommendations for tackling the rising acidity in Northwest marine waters, which already has upended the West Coast’s multimillion-dollar shellfish industry and threatens to wreak havoc on the region’s marine food web.

To combat ocean acidification in Washington, the state needs to better track the changing chemistry of Puget Sound, reduce stormwater runoff and nutrient pollution that worsen the problem, and counteract souring waters by sprinkling shells in estuaries or growing more carbon-gobbling vegetation.

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The real limits to marine life: a further critique of the Respiration Index

The recently proposed “Respiration Index” (RI = log[PO2]/[PCO2]) suggests that aerobic metabolism is limited by the ratio of reactants (R, oxygen) and products (P, carbon dioxide) according to the thermodynamics of cellular respiration. Here we demonstrate that, because of the large standard free energy change for organic carbon oxidation (ΔG° = −686 kcal mol−1), carbon dioxide can never reach concentrations that would limit the thermodynamics of this reaction. A PCO2 to PO2 ratio of 10503 would be required to reach equilibrium (equilibrium constant, Keq = 10503), where ΔG = 0. Thus a respiration index of −503 would be the real thermodynamic limit to aerobic life. Such a Respiration Index is never reached either in the cell or in the environment. Moreover cellular respiration and oxygen provision are kinetically controlled such that, within limits, environmental oxygen and CO2 concentrations have little to do with intracellular concentrations. The RI is fundamentally different from the aragonite saturation state, a thermodynamic index used to quantify the potential effect of CO2 on calcification rates, because of its failure to incorporate the equilibrium constant of the reaction. Not only is the RI invalid, its use leads to incorrect and dangerous predictions of the threat of changing oxygen and carbon dioxide to marine life. We provide a physiological model that identifies oxygen thresholds, and allows for synergistic effects of ocean acidification and global warming.

Continue reading ‘The real limits to marine life: a further critique of the Respiration Index’

Climate change: good for mussels but bad for clams

Experts of the National Higher Scientific Research Council of Spain (CSIC) evaluated the effects of ocean acidification derived from climate change on the clam Ruditapes decussatus and the mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis, and found that the phenomenon has different effects on the physiology of the species and on its potential growth.

The investigation was conducted by the group of ecophysiology, biomarkers and sustainable management of bivalves from the Marine Research Institute (IIM), reported the newspaper Faro de Vigo.

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2012 Coastal Summit features marine science and ocean acidification panel

ABERDEEN — Rapidly changing ocean chemistry, earthquakes and tsunamis, the impacts of plastics on the ocean and other scientific topics are on the agenda for public sessions of the Coastal Summit in Long Beach, Washington, Dec. 8. The event, now in its third year, convenes the four coastal Marine Resource Committees to share knowledge and ideas with each other and the public and build a network of informed and empowered coastal communities.

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Ocean acidification is killing shellfish, commercial fishing industry may be next

The Worlds Ocean’s are changing, and not for the better.

In testimony presented before the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Science and Technology, Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, Dr. Richard Feely, PHD, Senior Scientist at the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Seattle, WA, testified in regards to observed oceanic acidification, the effects of this on oceanic marine life, and the potentially related economic impacts.

The CO2 concentrations currently in our atmosphere are now greater than at any time within the last 800,000 years, and will continue to rise and contribute to a significant increase in Global Warming.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification is killing shellfish, commercial fishing industry may be next’

State unveils ideas on tackling ocean acidification

Gov. Gregoire wants to move forward with a first-in-the-nation effort. But the incoming governor and the next Legislature will have a lot to say on how to tackle the problem.      

You can probably expect Washington to increase efforts to stop acidic nutrients from flowing into Puget Sound. Ditto with carbon emissions escaping into the state’s air.

At the same time, Gov. Chris Gregoire wants to set up a University of Washington center to coordinate scientific efforts to combat the increasing acidity of Washington’s salt waters. And she wants some money to immediately help forecast Puget Sound’s acidity to forecast that best shellfish harvesting times.

Continue reading ‘State unveils ideas on tackling ocean acidification’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book