Researchers examine effect of ocean acidification on beach-dune systems

Increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide could alter the appearance of beaches and dunes, shows a new study from Ca Foscari University of Venice. The team analyzed the chain reaction of effects on the marine environment initiated by the rise in CO2, approximating that, from now until 2100, the accumulation of sediment at the base of Mediterranean dune systems could decrease by 31%, with beach erosion as well as a higher risk of flooding.

“Far from the mouths of rivers, dune-beach systems can be formed, either wholly or partially, by carbonate sediment produced by marine ecosystems, for example the underwater grasslands of Posidonia oceanica,” explained researcher Simone Simeone. “These sediments may be dissolved by the increasing acidity of the seas; according to recent studies, by the end of the century the marine pH may have fallen by 0.4 units. What is causing the acidification of the oceans … are the rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”

The research has revealed that the effects of this phenomenon can distort the sedimentary balance of a beach-dune system. “We have found that a significant quantity of the sediment forming the beach-dune system is made up of the remains of organisms which are vulnerable to the effects of acidification. A decrease in pH could significantly affect the prevalence of these organisms in marine ecosystems and consequently reduce carbonate sediment,” added Simeone.

American Laboratory, 19 November 2018. Article.

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