The quiet threat of the ocean acidification

“As Iceland builds bases its livelihood on the sea, ocean acidification may prove a much more dire problem than global warming,” says Hrönn Egilsdóttir, doctoral student in marine biology. Acidification is when the strength of carbon dioxide increases and its acidity (pH-value) decreases.

“250 million years ago 95% of sea creatures died out, probably after a considerable increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the ocean, not unlike what is now happening due to human actions.”

Egilsdóttir says that it is undisputed that the ocean receives around 30 percent of the carbon dioxide emitted due to the burning of fossil fuels. “Jón Ólafsson, Professor in Oceanography, and his team have collected data in the sea around Iceland from 1984. “This data is unique as few scientists measured carbon dioxide in the ocean at that time. The data shows unequivocally how rapid the changes have been. Comparison of this data with other places on the earth reveals that the ocean north of Iceland acidifies considerably faster then further south in the world,” says Egilsdóttir.

“The prediction is that ocean acidification is a serious threat to shell fish, i.e. sandwiches such as mussels, scallop and sea urchins in the next centuries,” says Egilsdóttir. This also applies to red seaweed, snails, mollusc and the coral reef south of Iceland. “The corals are in real danger due to ocean acidification. This is of course a serious matter for the Icelandic economy as the coral reefs are considered to be the breeding station for fish we count on, both to eat and export. Because there is much at stake for Iceland we should react immediately and lead other nations by good example, especially since we could easily be the most ecological country in the world,” concludes Egilsdóttir.

Supervisor: Jón Ólafsson, Professor at the Faculty of Earth Sciences.

Hronn Egilsdottir, News of Iceland, 1 September 2013. Article.

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