Ocean water dissolving the shells of marine life? Sounds like the plot of a science fiction movie, but for many shelled marine organisms it's a reality due to anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide. With the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide at its highest point in the last 650,000 years, the oceans are becoming more acidic as the water turns carbon dioxide into carbonic acid.
Recent scientific findings have shown that acidified waters are reaching near shore regions along the western North American coastline. This unexpected finding suggests that some organisms with shells may already be experiencing sea water chemistry that is corrosive to their shells. Scientists have known of this threat to marine life; however they originally thought it would take decades to reach such dangerous levels.
This is only the latest worrisome discovery, and it should act as further impetus for urgent action to cut global carbon emissions. To learn more about how acidic oceans threaten marine life, read two informative articles from the Telegraph and Science.
Ellycia Harrould-Kolieb is a science fellow at Oceana. On occasion, she'll weigh in to inform us on some of the pressing issues facing the oceans.
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