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Ocean Acidification: The Untold Stories

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November 1, 2010

Our use of fossil fuels, deforestation and land use changes are wreaking havoc on the  oceans. Besides causing global climate change, which could cause catastrophic impacts around the world, the release of carbon dioxide from these activities is also leading to ocean acidification. The oceans ultimately absorb most carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and thus play a critical role in regulating climate. They also help to mitigate human caused climate change. But the unprecedented amount of carbon dioxide being created by human activity has surpassed what the oceans can healthfully absorb, changing ocean chemistry and making them more acidic.

Acidity is measured on a pH scale, where lower pH indicates more acidic water. Ocean pH has dropped by thirty percent globally during the last two hundred years. Even though the drop in pH appears small (from 8.2 to 8.1), the pH scale is logarithmic, meaning that this change is large enough that it may already be beginning to affect some of the oceans most beloved and biologically important residents, including corals.

The changing acidity of the oceans threatens to throw off the delicate chemical balance upon which marine ife depends for survival. The scant attention this issue has received has focused primarily on corals, which are threatened with extinction within this century unless we change course. Corals are the framework builders of reefs, by far the most diverse ecosystems of our oceans. However, the effects of acidification are not going to stop with reefs, like dominoes, the impacts are going to be far-reaching throughout the oceans.

Download "Ocean Acidification: The Untold Stories" (PDF)