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How Carbon Impacts Our Ocean’s pH

In my previous blog, I talked about how the levels of carbon dioxide are increasing in the oceans, and how that will impact the ocean circulation and temperature of the ocean. However, there is a much bigger problem than the rise of ocean temperature that we must deal with. This problem is known as Ocean Acidification. Ocean acidification is the process in which carbon dioxide dissolves into the ocean and reacts with the ocean water. When this reaction occurs, it increasing the carbonate ion concentration, hence saturating critical biologically important calcium minerals. (Ocean Acidification NOAA)

As the carbon levels in our atmosphere increase, the ocean absorbs roughly 30 percent of the carbon dioxide released on land (The Other CO2 Problem, NOAA Visualizations).  The more carbon we put into the ocean, the more reactions we have occurring, creating more and more carbonate ion’s in our ocean which saturates the calcium minerals. What does all this mean? Well let’s take a look at many populations of marine life that rely on calcium carbonate to form shells. In an experiment done on Pteropod’s, a major food source for fish and other organisms, the shell of the Pteropod dissolved in 45 days in a solution that is projected to be the ocean chemistry of 2100. This threaten’s marine life everywhere.

Showing the experiment run by the NOAA with the predicted ocean chemistry for 2100. (Ocean Acidification NOAA)

If that serious of images doesn’t concern you than I do not know what will. The fact is our ocean is becoming less and less friendly towards the base of the marine food chain. There are over 1 billion people who rely on fish and shelfish as their primary source of protein. (Ocean Acidification NOAA)

The Orange is the carbon dioxide levels and the blue is the pH in the ocean for the past 20 years. (Earth Habitat World Press)

This problem is not something that will go away without active pursuit of a solution. Since the industrial revolution, the pH has fallen by .1 pH units. That translates to a 30% increase in acidity. Scientists predict that the ocean will be nearly 150% more acidic in 2100, which is the highest level of acidity in over 20 million years. (Ocean Acidification NOAA)

References Cited

Kloeppel, James, 2007, Regardless of Global Warming, Rising CO2 Levels Threaten Marine Life. http://www.news.illinois.edu/news/07/0308oceans.html

Ocean Acidification, 2012, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/co2/story/Ocean+Acidification

Ocean Acidification Trends and Maps, 2010, Earth Habitat. http://earthhabitat.wordpress.com/2010/02/23/ocean-acidification-map/

The Other Carbon Dioxide Problem, 2011, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Visualizations. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9EaLRcVdTbM

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