Home   :    Contact   :    Donations
The Shark and Coral Conservation Trust
About SCCT   :       Donations   :       The Facts   :       D.E.E.P   :       News   :       Articles   :       Videos   :       What You Can Do

articles


The world's oceans at risk from rising acidity
25/07/08
source : Steve Connor  The Independent


A significant increase in the acidity of the Pacific Ocean has been detected by scientists, who believe it could upset the delicate balance of marine ecosystems and lead to their collapse.


Rising ocean acidity is one of the results of increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and scientists are concerned that the phenomenon could make it impossible for key species in the marine food chain to make their protective shells.

The scientists, led by Richard Feely of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), surveyed 13 different locations off the west coast of North America, from Canada to Mexico, and found higher-than-expected levels of acidityin seawater samples taken near the surface.

"Our results show for the first time that a large section of the North American continental shelf is impacted by ocean acidification," the scientists said in their study, published online in the journal Science.

The survey took place in May and June last year using a research ship that collected seawater samples as it sailed across the North American continental shelf from Queen Charlotte Sound in Canada to San Gregorio Baja California Sur in Mexico. The scientists said that other regions of the world may also be affected to a similar extent, because rising levels of man-made carbon dioxide in the air cause ocean acidity to increase wherever the gas dissolves in seawater to form carbonic acid.

Over the past 250 years, since the start of the industrial revolution, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by about 100 parts per million and about a third of this extra carbon dioxide in the air is estimated to have dissolved in the oceans, where it has helped to raise acidity levels.

"The atmospheric concentration of CO2 is now higher than it has been for at least the past 650,000 years, and is expected to continue to rise at an increasing rate, leading to significant changes in our climate by the end of the century," the scientists said.

Each day the oceans absorb about 30 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This increasing concentration of carbonic acid has changed the chemistry and the biology of the oceans to an extent that can now be detected by scientists.

"This phenomenon, which is commonly called 'ocean acidification', could affect some of the most fundamental biological and geochemical processes of the sea in the coming decades, and could seriously alter the fundamental structure of pelagic [free- swimming] and benthic [seafloor] ecosystems," the scientists said.

Dr Feely said many species of fish that are not directly affected by rising acidity levels would nevertheless still be indirectly affected by the inability of key marine organisms to make their protective shells. "The best example, of course, is coral reefs. They support 25 per cent of the entire biodiversity of the world's oceans. If they should be lost, then many of the fish species that depend on them would also be lost," Dr Feely said.

"Coral reefs also provide food resources for 500 million people throughout the world. Deep- water corals have been found along the US coast, from California to Alaska," he said.

When carbon dioxide dissolves in seawater the increased acidity reduces the availability of dissolved substances called carbonate ions, which are necessary for the formation of the calcium carbonate skeletons and shells of marine organisms.

In addition to corals and shellfish, microscopic marine plankton also form shells that eventually sink to the sea floor to become beds of limestone. Some of these organisms, called coccolithophores, have been found to increase their shell-making capacity in response to rising levels of carbon dioxide, but Dr Feely said that this may also alter the balance of the marine habitat.

"With some species of coccolithophores increasing in abundance at the expense of others, the ocean ecosystem might shift towards species that carry more carbon away from the surface, causing greater uptake of carbon into the oceans," Dr Feely said.

How greenhouse gas emissions are killing the oceans

Many of the most important marine organisms, from tiny plankton called coccolithophores to coral reefs and the more familiar shellfish species, can only exist by building protective shells of calcium carbonate. This process of 'marine calcification' cannot occur if the oceans become too acidic. The sea is naturally alkaline, but rising levels of carbon dioxide in the air are causing the oceans to become more acidic. The chemistry behind the process of shell-making relies on a complex series of chemical equations kept in a state of equilibrium. More acidity means that the delicate chemical balance becomes unbalanced. Scientists have estimated that some 118 billion tonnes of carbon released into the air as carbon dioxide between 1800 and 1994 have been taken up by the oceans. Indeed, about a third of the carbon dioxide produced by human activities since the start of the Industrial Revolution has been absorbed by the seas. So without the capacity of the oceans to act as a natural carbon sink, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air today – about 380 parts per million – would be significantly higher. Marine calcification produces carbon dioxide in the short term, but in the long term it takes carbon out of the atmosphere.
PREVIOUS ARTICLES

2013
Sea Urchins Tolerate Acid Water
06/04/13

SHARK KILLS NUMBER 100 MILLION ANNUALLY
02/03/13

2012
A Climate Change Agreement for Children
06/12/12

Cate Change takes Centre Stage
06/12/12

Ocean acidification and warming decrease calcification in the crustose coralline alga Hydrolithon on
13/10/12

Solar Panels - Are they really clean emergy technology
07/09/12

Ocean Acidification may limit Phytoplankton
27/08/12

Acidic POceans - why should we Care?
24/08/12

Carbon Dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere
24/08/12

Jellyfish and Chips
17/05/12

The Effects of El Nino on Marine Life (2)
19/02/12

The Effects of El Nino on Marine Life
19/02/12

Protect Our Oceans
14/01/12

Decrease in shark numbers poses risk to Great Barrier Reef
11/01/12

2011
IAP STATEMENT ON OCEAN ACIDIFICATION
28/10/11

Vast Shark Sanctuary created in the Pacific
03/10/11

Cora Reef Builders Vulnerableto Ocean Acidification
02/10/11

Is Hydrogen the Future of Motoring ??
20/09/11

Marine Protection Bids Unveiled
08/09/11

Stan Ovshinsky and the Hydrogen Economy
07/07/11

Shark Fishing Banned in the Bahamas
06/07/11

Relationships between coral and fishes on the Great Barrier Reef
10/06/11

Emissions and Growth Continue their Dance
08/06/11

Acid Test for Local Action
08/06/11

2010
'Alarming' plight of coral reefs
12/10/10

Nature's Sting - The real cost of damaging Planet Earth
12/10/10

Hoga Summary
27/09/10

Great White Sharks 'Shrinking'
14/09/10

Swiss Tycoon sends patrol boat to save Serengeti of sea
14/09/10

Asia Demand spurs Brazilian shark kills
04/08/10

Plankton decline across oceans as water warms
30/07/10

Met Office Views on Climate Change (CC)
26/07/10

Ocean Acidification in 2010
23/07/10

The Great Barrier Reef is threatened by Ships and their Cargo
22/05/10

OCEAN ACIDIFICATION ACCELERATES
30/04/10

Talking Points:Japan: eating tuna to extinction
29/03/10

UK TSB INVESTS £7M IN FUEL CELLS AND HYDROGEN
07/03/10

M4 in Wales to be 'Hydrogen Highway'
12/02/10

A Boost for Clean Energy
28/01/10

Declining Coral Calcification on the Great Barrier Reef
20/01/10

Coral Can Recover From Climate Change Damage
20/01/10

Ocean Acidification
12/01/10

Impacts of Ocean Acidification
12/01/10

Chalk one up for coccolithophores
12/01/10

Coral Reefs are evolution hotspot
09/01/10

2009
Beware the "evil twin" of climate change
30/12/09

Hydrogen Power for Vehicles - COP15
20/12/09

Natural Lab shows Sea's Acid Path
22/11/09

'Coral Lab offers Acidity Insight
22/11/09

UK Funds Sea Acidification Study
22/11/09

UK Climate Targets 'Unachievable'
13/11/09

Marine Bill Enters Final Stages
12/11/09

Recovering Scotland's Marine Environment
06/11/09

An Iron-clad Partnership
06/11/09

'Freezer Plan' bid to save coral
26/10/09

Action on Shark Finning
14/10/09

Arctic Seas turn to Acid
08/10/09

Sharks pay high price as demand for fins soar
08/10/09

Diverse Fish Reduce Coral Disease
05/10/09

Pacific Nation Declares Itself Shark Haven
03/10/09

Shark Trade Limits endorsed by EU
27/09/09

Palau Pioneers Shark Sanctuary
25/09/09

China Vows Climate Change Action
22/09/09

Shark Rescue is here
21/09/09

Doctors warn on Climate Failure
16/09/09

How Global Warming sealed the fate of the World's Coral Reefs
04/09/09

A SECOND NORTH SEA BONANZA ?
04/09/09

Paradise Lost
04/09/09

Shark Tagging Mission is under way
31/08/09

The Hydrogen Cycle
19/07/09

Climate Scenarios 'being realised'.
15/07/09

Ocean Acidification - Calcifying Phytoplankton
01/07/09

Ocean Acidification on benthic biodiversity
01/07/09

In the Soup - Shark species facing extinction
25/06/09

Over fishing Threatens Shark Extinction
25/06/09

Student film highlights plight of the oceans
04/05/09

Ocean Acidification threatens underwater ecosystems
04/05/09

Drowning in Plastic
30/04/09

'Clean' Coal Plants Get Go-Ahead
23/04/09

Paving the Road to COP15: Adaptation and Outreach
21/03/09

The Road to Catastrophe
20/03/09

World's leading scientists i n desperate plea to politicians to act on climate change
14/03/09

Pollution to devastate shellfish by turning seas acidic
14/03/09

THREATS FROM OCEAN ACIDIFICATION
11/03/09

CO2 HIGHEST FOR 650,000 YEARS
01/03/09

SLOW PROGRESS ON OCEAN PROTECTION
28/02/09

Jellyfish and Chips
18/02/09

London Marathon Motivation
07/02/09

EU Gives Shark Protection Teeth
06/02/09

ACID OCEANS 'NEED URGENT ATTENTION'
31/01/09

OCEAN ACIDIFICATION - The other CO2 problem
28/01/09

Panel Warns on Great Barrier Reef
03/01/09

Coral Reef Growth is Slowest Ever
03/01/09

2008
Changes amplify Arctic Warming
17/12/08

Rise in CO2 affrects Jumbo Squid
16/12/08

Jellyfish Invasion
21/11/08

The Rate of Ocean Acidification
18/11/08

Ocean Acidification Impacts
18/11/08

Impact of Ocean Acidification on Coral Reefs and Other Calcifiers
20/10/08

Nature Loss Dwarfs Bank Crisis
10/10/08

The Creation of Artificial Reefs
23/09/08

Iceland - Fossil fuels to Hydrogen-based Economy
17/09/08

The world's oceans at risk from rising acidity
25/07/08

Coral reefs under threat from humans
11/07/08

Ocean Acidification - Plankton hold surprise for Climate Research
28/06/08

Anthropogenic Ocean Acidification over the 21st Century and its Impact on Calcifying Organisms
13/06/08

Mileage from Megawatts
12/06/08

Could US scientists 'CO2 Catcher' help slow warming ?
09/06/08

Sharks Swim Closer to Extinction
22/05/08

Wildlife Populations Plummeting
16/05/08

Introducing Hydrogen Power
30/04/08

Ocean Acidification - Technical Information
28/04/08

Carbon Capture and Storage - UKCCSC Project
28/04/08

Lemon Sharks and Dogfish - Hyperbaric Sensitivity ??
29/03/08

The GAIA Theory
26/03/08

Status of the World's Coral Reefs
24/03/08

Krill, Fishing Threatens the Antarctic
23/03/08

Marine Altruistic Behaviour - - 4 stories
22/03/08

Global Sea Level Changes
22/03/08

Climate Change Controversies - A Simple Guide
21/03/08

Sharks and Coral Reefs (One year on)
10/03/08

Shark Species face extinction amid overfishing and appetite for fins
28/02/08

SCCT Presentation Uptake
11/02/08

Coral Reefs Under Rapid Climate Change and Ocean Acidification
27/01/08

An exchange of views on Marine Reserves and Trophic Cascades
25/01/08

2007
The Effects of Global Warming on the Great Barrier Reef
21/12/07

Microbial Ecology and Evolution:A Discussion at Metagenomics 2006
15/12/07

Habitat Conservation
28/11/07

Marine Balances and Climate Engineering
27/11/07

Oceans are 'soaking up' less CO2
20/10/07

Algal Blooms in the Ocean
08/09/07

UK Marine Bill
15/08/07

Tourism Vs Traditional Fishing
10/08/07

US National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks
29/07/07

Shark Depredation and unwanted Bycatch in Pelagic Longline Fisheries
17/07/07

Ecosystems: Coral Reefs
28/06/07

Shell-shocked
20/06/07

Ongoing Collapse of Coral Reef Shark Population
12/06/07

Shark trade restriction bid fails
12/06/07

Be nicer to sharks
26/05/07

Cascading Effects of the loss of Apex Predatory Sharks from a Coastal Ocean
25/05/07

Sharks are vital for Coral Reef Health
25/05/07

Sharkless Seas
21/05/07