Ocean acidity is not typically what comes to mind when considering climate change. However, sea levels are not only rising, they are increasing in acidity as well. A recent 8 year study by German researchers has made some breakthrough discoveries on the impact of increasing acidity of waters on marine life. The group responsible for these discoveries are planning to push forth the agenda of steps to take towards not only reducing but possibly halting this increase in acidity altogether during the upcoming UN climate change conference.
What is Ocean Acidification?
Up to one third of carbon dioxide emissions produced by humans is currently being absorbed by the ocean. The absorbed carbon dioxide dissolves in the water and forms carbonic acid which increases the acidity of the water. Acidity is tested on a pH scale that goes from zero, being the most basic, to forteen being the most acidic, and seven being neutral middle. The acid formation by carbon dioxide happens mainly at the surface levels of the water. Scientists have not yet studied the phenomena of ocean acidification in depth, and the long term results are still unknown. However, a recent eight year study has made some major breakthroughs in terms of understanding the effects the increasing acidity, particularly on shelled animals.
Discoveries By Bioacid Study
A team of over 250 German researchers and scientist known as the Biological Impacts of Ocean Acidification group, with the support of the german government, conducted an eight year long study targeted towards understanding the effects of ocean acidification on marine life. The ocean was able to maintain a relatively balanced and stable acidity level for millions of years. However, the industrial revolution in the 1800s has boomed the human production and the use of fossil fuel machines, generating uncontrollable amounts of carbon dioxide emissions amongst other consequences. This resulted in a more recent drop in the pH level of the water from 8.2 to 8.1 and increased the acidity by 26%. Additionally, the study has found that reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will only slow down the acidification, and the only way to effectively stop it is to remove the carbon dioxide currently sitting in the atmosphere.
The Impact of the Acidification On Ecosystems
As the overall effects of this acidification are being studied, scientists are uncovering the particular impact it has on marine life. Organisms that require calcified shells to survive were majorly impacted by the acidification due to the hindering it poses on their ability to create their shelters. Additionally, studies have found that the acidification is slowing down the growth of young species, such as starfish, and blue mussels. Specifically, the Atlantic cod is predicted to be only half of its current size towards the end of the century. The Bioacid group reported that this acidification is indeed impacting the entire lifespan of these species across the globe. However, the study did reveal that some species like barnacles were not only unimpacted, but possibly benefited by the acidification. The issue here stems from the fact that everything, not only in the ocean but on this planet as a whole, lives in an ecosystem that thrives on the dependency on the health of other organisms. The impact of ocean acidification on one type of species will inevitably end up throwing off the food chain and impacting all other ocean species, consequently impacting all other ecosystems on earth.
Environmental Impact and Future Plans
The UN climate change conference in Bonn to take place this November will allow for the scientist responsible for the recent discoveries to discuss the dangers of not only the acidification of the ocean, but the total possible feedback loop effect on the environment as a whole. Moreover, the fact that the ocean is currently the biggest carbon dioxide sink and that the acidification is posing a possibility of losing the ocean as a carbon dioxide storehouse altogether is another topic worth considering. The Summit in November will focus on fulfilling the 2015 global Climate change agreement of Paris, and the scientist will push forth the agenda of taking instant action towards the awareness of acidification. The UN ambassador for the oceans, Peter Thomson will fortunately be hosting this years summit and is leading the discussion on spreading awareness into considering the oceans as equal of a factor in climate change.