Above is a good primer on ocean acidification narrated by Dan Laffoley of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The video spans the vulnerable corals of Australia's Great Barrier Reef to the equally vulnerable shellfish industry of the Pacific Northwest, detailing the potential effects of a more acidic ocean.
To those unfamiliar with global warming's "evil twin", the video does a good job of explaining the basics of ocean acidification: simply put, carbon dioxide reacts with ocean water to make carbonic acid. The ocean absorbs about a quarter of civilization's carbon dioxide emissions, and as a result they are now 30 percent more acidic than before the industrial revolution. What does this mean for animals like clams, corals, or oysters that rely on a more stable pH range to build their calcium carbonate skeletons and shells?
Mother nature has provided some of her own experiments, as documented in the video. Near Vesuvius in the Mediterranean carbon dioxide bubbles up from below, rendering a glimpse in to a future, more acidic, and bleaker ocean. Closer to the vents, where the water is more saturated with carbon dioxide, the communities of life become less diverse and invasive algaes thrive.
Off of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is already struggling in the new man-made environment. As more and more acidic water continues to erode the corals in the coming decades, these ecosystems of otherworldly beauty and diversity could simply go extinct.
Perhaps most worrisome of all is the effect of acidification on pteropods, a shell forming plankton at the very bottom of the ocean's food web, nicknamed the "potato chips of the sea". These animals are especially vulnerable to acidification, and as the narrator ominously intones: "If their shells dissolve a critical part of the food web dissolves with them".
Learn more about ocean acidification and what you can do to help.
As the first week of the sixteenth meeting of the UN climate negotiations in Cancun, Mexico (COP 16) draws to a close, Oceana is releasing a new report on climate change's evil twin: ocean acidification.
Ocean Acidification: The Untold Stories details new findings for many different species of marine life that will be affected by a more acidic ocean. Coral reef ecosystems will be some of the first casualties of an acidified ocean; impacts to these beautiful and important habitats could have huge consequences for a quarter of the entire biological diversity of the oceans that depend on coral reefs for food and shelter.
Marine life ranging from the smallest plankton to the largest whale may be affected by ocean acidification. Shellfish such as sea urchins, lobsters, sea stars and brittle stars are some prime examples of creatures that could be affected. More acidic oceans are expected to lead to a shortage of carbonate, a key building block that these animals need to build their shells and skeletons.
Oceana has once again teamed up with Google to create a powerful new educational tool about the oceans. In the new Google Earth 6.0 tour, “Ocean Acid Test,” Oceana scientist Dr. Jeffrey Short explains the science and effects of ocean acidification, particularly the threats facing shell-producing creatures, such as crabs, lobsters and corals.
Coinciding with the start of the United Nations’ COP16 climate conference in Cancun, Mexico, the tour was unveiled today at Google Earth’s Outreach hompage: www.google.com/cop16 and will also be revealed at the Google Earth booth in Cancun. Oceana will also be holding a presentation at COP 16 to highlight the global threat of ocean acidification.
Check it out for yourself below and then take action to stop ocean acidification!
Sam Lardner is a musician making a difference for the oceans. Lardner started a musical awareness and outreach campaign to enlighten children ages 5 to 13 and their families about the issues facing the world’s oceans.
I just listened to his CD, “Oceans are Talking” and I have to say -- I know it’s for kids, but I found the melodies quite catchy. Lardner manages to communicate serious issues about the oceans in a fun and engaging way through song. His voice is reminiscent of James Taylor, and he has backup from some talented young voices.