As a follow up to my post on the State of the Oceans 2013, I provide you with this new published report on Ocean Acidification. I first learned about this report when I found this BBC article. You are of course probably hearing about it here for the first time. That last sentence is just a smart remark about our current state of our media.
As the levels of carbon in the air continues to go up the oceans are getting more acidic.
Observations of CO2 (parts per million) in the atmosphere and pH of surface seawater from Mauna Loa and Hawaii Ocean Time-series (HOT) Station Aloha, Hawaii, North Pacific.
Credit: Adapted from Richard Feely (NOAA), Pieter Tans, NOAA/ESRL (www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends) and Ralph Keeling, Scripps Institution of Oceanography (scrippsco2.ucsd.edu)
THE SUMMERY OF OUTCOMES
The ocean continues to acidify at an unprecedented rate in Earth’s history. Latest research indicates the rate of change may be faster than at any time in the last 300 million years.
As ocean acidity increases, its capacity to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere decreases. This decreases the ocean’s role in moderating climate change.
Species-specific impacts of ocean acidification have been seen in laboratory and field studies on organisms from the poles to the tropics. Many organisms show adverse effects, such as reduced ability to form and maintain shells and skeletons, as well as reduced survival, growth, abundance and larval development. Conversely, evidence indicates that some organisms tolerate ocean acidification and that others, such as some seagrasses, may even thrive.
Within decades, large parts of the polar oceans will become corrosive to the unprotected shells of calcareous marine organisms.
Changes in carbonate chemistry of the tropical ocean may hamper or prevent coral reef growth within decades.
The far-reaching effects of ocean acidification are predicted to impact food webs, biodiversity, aquaculture and hence societies.
Species differ in their potential to adapt to new environments. Ocean chemistry may be changing too rapidly for many species or populations to adapt through evolution.
Multiple stressors – ocean acidification, warming, decreases in oceanic oxygen concentrations (deoxygenation), increasing UV-B irradiance due to stratospheric ozone depletion, overfishing, pollution and eutrophication – and their interactions are creating significant challenges for ocean ecosystems.
We do not fully understand the biogeochemical feedbacks to the climate system that may arise from ocean acidification.
Predicting how whole ecosystems will change in response to rising CO2 levels remains challenging. While we know enough to expect changes in marine ecosystems and biodiversity within our lifetimes, we are unable to make reliable, quantitative predictions of socio-economic impacts.
People who rely on the ocean’s ecosystem services are especially vulnerable and may need to adapt or cope with ocean acidification impacts within decades. Shellfish fisheries and aquaculture in some areas may be able to cope by adjusting their management practices to avoid ocean acidification impacts. Tropical coral reef loss will affect tourism, food security and shoreline protection for many of the world’s poorest people.
You can download the full report from the link above and I hope you do. While it is not a “good” news report it is one of the most beautiful reports I’ve ever read.
If you link back to my post on the State of the Oceans 2013 (see top of post) you will find several links to articles on ocean acidification that are happening now.