The Beacon

One Senator's Push for Research on Acidification

Continued carbon emissions are increasing the acidity of the oceans; in fact, approximately a third of anthropogenic carbon emissions are absorbed by the oceans each year. Scientists worry that not enough research has been done on the possible effects that ocean acidification will have on marine wildlife, ecosystems and food webs.

And it's not just the scientists: Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington state is fighting to increase funding for research on ocean acidification and its effect on threatened marine life. Recently Sen. Cantwell, along with scientists, held an official hearing in Seattle to discuss the issue.

Of prime concern are creatures that create shells and skeletons, such as corals. Increased acidity reduces the amount of available carbonate ions, a building block used for shell and skeleton formation. Lab studies show that increasing levels of acidity on corals can cause their skeletons to weaken and even totally dissolve.

What's unclear is what happens outside of the lab with such acidification. Increased funding is vital to allow additional studies, but research shouldn't be the end game; immediate action must be taken as ocean acidification is already impacting some areas.

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