Scientists analyzing the seasonal oscillations of carbonate concentration and pH in the Southern Ocean have found a naturally occurring wintertime low in carbonate concentration that, when coupled with anthropogenic CO2 absorption, may cause further depletion in carbonate concentration, hastening ocean acidification. Their analyses led the scientists to predict an undersaturation of carbonate concentration in the Southern Ocean within just 30 years time, which is sooner than previously expected.
Undersaturation will likely disrupt the winter larval development of the black pteropod, a species of calcifying plankton and an integral part of the Southern Ocean marine ecosystem. The black pteropod is prey for many species, such as whales and fish, and its loss may cause harmful effects throughout the food web. The study emphasizes the urgency of reducing CO2 emissions. Marine scientists are demanding political action, stating, "this study confirms the worrying conclusion that calcification in the world's oceans is in big trouble if atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide exceed 450 ppm."
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