Antarctic ocean increases absorption of greenhouse gases

The Antarctic Ocean, also known as the Southern Ocean, which surrounds the icy continent of Antarctica has taken the scientist community by surprise by increasing its capacity to absorb carbon dioxide emissions.

Nearly one fourth of the world’s carbon emissions are absorbed by the oceans. As the Antarctic Ocean accounts for 40 percent of the absorption, the role played by it in mitigating the effects of climate change is critical.

A greater part of the carbon dioxide produced on our planet is absorbed by the plants but the oceans play a vital role too as they ‘suck in’ the harmful gas.

“The seas around Antarctica absorb significantly more CO2 than they release. And importantly, they remove a large part of the CO2 that is put into the atmosphere by human activities such as burning fossil fuels,” co-author Dorothee Bakker, of the University of East Anglia, said in a statement announcing the findings.

Earlier research had indicated that the aforesaid water body had stalled its uptake of absorbing the greenhouse gases as the seas surrounding Antarctica had approached a saturation point and would not be able to keep pace with the increasing amount of greenhouse gases being produced on our planet.

Newer findings based on surface water carbon dioxide measurements taken throughout the past decade however suggest that the Antarctic Ocean has regained its expected strength but the scientists are warning that this could affect the marine life adversely.

The flip side of these findings is that as this increased rate of absorption of harmful gases benefits life on land, creatures living in the ocean (both plant and animal life) could have to pay a heavy price as the carbon dioxide levels in the waters rise. The gas will cause acidification of oceans and thus impact marine life adversely it is being believed.

“The changes we expect to see in ocean acidification in this century are likely to be bigger than anything these marine organisms have seen in the ocean for the last 20 million years,” said CSIRO and Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems CRC scientist Bronte Tilbrook, who collaborated with scientists from America and Europe on the research.

Ocean acidification might interfere with the ability of organisms staying in these waters to grow shells and skeletal material. Dr Tilbrook added that the possibility of metabolic and physiological processes of these organisms being disrupted could not be ruled out.

Ambika Mahajan, The News Recorder, 13 September 2015. Article.

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