Study: CO2 Emissions Raising Ocean Acidity Levels at Faster Rate
However, it’s also changed a lot. According to the National Research Council, the chemistry of the oceans is changing faster now than it did hundreds of thousands of years ago, because of all the CO2 being absorbed from the atmosphere. These chemical changes are causing the ocean to become more acidic, which is having some negative effects on marine life.
If you are an avid snorkeler or diver—that is to say, if you do those activities on a regular basis—have you noticed any changes in the coral reefs? Maybe you’ve seen less of a certain plant, or perhaps less color? This is one possible side-effect from the increased ocean acidification. The pH of the water has declined from 8.2 to 8.1 since the 18th century, and another 0.2 to 0.3 decrease is expected by the end of this century. That may not seem like a big drop it numbers, but it is clearly big enough to cause some drastic changes.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with pH (or have forgotten your high school chemistry studies), pH (potential for hydrogen ion concentration) measures how acidic or alkaline something is. A measurement of 7 is neutral, while lower numbers are more acidic and higher numbers are more alkaline. The NRC report states that the current rate of change “exceeds any known change in ocean chemistry for at least 800,000 years”. That’s a pretty long time.
Scientists are particular concerned about how this changed chemistry will affect ocean life. We are already aware of the growing issue of coral bleaching, but further studies have yet to determine how this will impact photosynthesis, growth, reproduction, and general survival of many sea creatures. The EPA plans on considering ways states can address the rising ocean acidity levels.
You can read the full report here.
By Heidi Marshall