Ocean Acidification: The Threat is Real

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Ocean Acidification: The Threat is Real

Human activities have killed marine species while further damaging and polluting their homes / Rich Carey via Shutterstock

 

Our oceans have always been the home of millions of marine species. Not only do they help these species, but oceans are also responsible for making conditions on our planet suitable for us to live on it. It keeps the balance of rainwater, weather systems, drinking water, and climate. At the same time, oceans are a great source of food for humans and also produce the majority of the oxygen that we breathe.

However, humans have drastically affected our oceans thinking that we can't harm them. Human activities have killed marine species while further damaging and polluting their homes. The threats of our actions can have far-reaching effects more than we can ever realize. For instance, reports have shown that there will be more plastics than fish in our oceans by weight by 2050. A report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) showed that the surface of the global ocean has warmed by about 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880.

Aside from that, approximately 70% of the world’s coastal areas during the past three decades have experienced significant increases in sea-surface temperature. An article by the UConn Today reported that high-latitude ecosystems are undergoing even more rapid change. At the same time, reduced sea ice is affecting a myriad of marine species, and the Arctic Ocean is warming almost twice as fast. One of the reasons for this is ocean acidification. 

What is Ocean Acidification and How Does it Harm Marine Species

Most of the time, people talk about coral bleaching, the warming of the ocean, and the extinction of marine species as detrimental factors against keeping a well-balanced ocean. Aside from that, another factor would be ocean acidification, which is defined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as "a reduction in the pH of the ocean over an extended period of time, caused primarily by uptake of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere.” 

The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased in more than 200 years or since the Industrial Revolution. This is due to the land use change and the burning of fossil fuels. A series of chemical reactions happen, which increases the concentration of hydrogen ions when carbon dioxide is absorbed by seawater. Thus, seawater causes carbonate ions to be relatively less abundant and become more acidic. 

According to an article by the PMEL Carbon Program, the continued ocean acidification that happened in our oceans causes many parts to become under-saturated with these minerals. This affects some marine species to produce and maintain their shells. A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Plymouth found out that ocean acidification could have serious impacts for millions of people around the world. The impacts would be particularly significant in people whose lives depend on aquaculture, fisheries, and coastal protection. 

With the rise of carbon dioxide levels, the only way that can prevent the impacts of ocean acidification is the significant cuts in fossil fuel emissions. According to an article by the Science Daily, the researchers called a binding international agreement that builds on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This aims to address and minimize the effects of ocean acidification. 

With the rise of carbon dioxide levels, the only way that can prevent the impacts of ocean acidification is the significant cuts in fossil fuel emissions / Jeff Zehnder via Shutterstock

 

Through laboratory experiments and observations along natural gradients in carbon dioxide, the researchers provided some of the potential effects of ocean acidification on ecosystem properties, services, and functions. It showed that some of the marine species deeply affected by this are the reefs made by organisms with shells or skeletons like corals and oysters. It can provide less coastal protection and at the same time, less habitat for commercially important fish and shellfish.

Additionally, the study showed the risks that can happen to marine goods and services. Some of these risks include habitat degradation, climate change causing shifts to seaweed dominance, and a loss of biodiversity in several areas, such as the tropics, the sub-tropics, and the temperate coasts. In an interview, author Dr. Ben Harvey said, "We are releasing around 1 million tons of carbon dioxide per hour into the Earth's atmosphere. About 25% of this gas is taken up by the ocean where it reacts with seawater to form a weak acid, causing surface ocean pH to fall by around 0.002 units per year. The chemistry of this rapid change in surface waters is understood, yet there is uncertainty about its effects on society, which is what we are trying to overcome in this study."

What Can Be the Solutions for Ocean Acidification?

Ocean acidification has already affected a number of marine species that can increase still if this issue is not addressed immediately. Fortunately, there are many organizations and efforts being done to find solutions. In fact, an article by the Pacific Standard reported that NOAA has established an ocean acidification program in 2012. Its main goals are to monitor impacts, develop adaptation, and coordinate education programs. 

Some of the places that have initiated studies and working groups to solve ocean acidification are Oregon, California, Washington, Maine, and Alaska. According to an article by the Revolution, it would help to eat less meat since livestock farming is known to produce more greenhouse gasses than all forms of transport combined. These greenhouse gasses are the biggest cause of climate change and ocean acidification too. Other ways include using less energy at home, conserving water, and reducing plastic.

 

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