Anthropogenic influences on ocean chemistry

Anthropogenic activities are significantly altering the chemistry of the oceans. One major implication of human activities is ocean acidification, which refers to the increase in ocean pH in response to the addition of CO2. This CO2 is being absorbed in the ocean from the atmosphere due to increased anthropogenic emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels. Another effect is the loss of oxygen from ocean waters, known as deoxygenation. Oxygen is lost from the oceans both as an effect of warming Earth surface temperatures and as a result of changing biogeochemical cycles. Finally, human activities are altering nutrient cycles. Urban and agricultural activities cause nitrogen and phosphorus loading in coastal regions, while the damming of rivers reduces silica fluxes to the ocean. Fertilizer production and fossil fuel combustion also increase nutrient delivery via atmospheric pathways. In this article, these three themes will be explored, including a discussion of the biological and ecological implications, the current observations and projections, and context from the geologic record.

Tessin A., in press. Anthropogenic influences on ocean chemistry. Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences. Article (subscription required).


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