November 25, 2013 at 1:05 am #1255MikeKeymaster
Acid waters, dissolving shellfish
Until now, concern about rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been focused on global warming. But scientists have discovered a second reason to worry: About half of the greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels — an amount weighing about the same as 140 billion Volkswagen Beetles — has ultimately ended up in the world’s oceans.
While this has the beneficial effect of slowing down the rate at which the planet’s atmosphere is heating up, ocean researchers have found that the huge influx of carbon dioxide since 1800 is making oceans more acidic than they have been for millions of years. If not reversed, this trend could destabilize — or even threaten –much of the world’s marine life, particularly animals that can’t adapt to living in a more corrosive environment.
So far, the ocean’s pH (the commonly used scale of whether something is acidic or alkaline) has become about 30 per cent more acidic over the past 200 years because humans have added so much carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Scientists say this change has never occurred in the recent history of the planet — either in such a massive way, or so quickly.
“The pH changes that are occurring in the ocean today are truly extraordinary,” says Joan Kleypas, a scientist at the U.S. National Centre for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., and the lead author of a report issued this month that rang alarm bells about the trend. “Unfortunately, this is not an environmental problem that we’ve had to deal with in the past, and so we really don’t have a very good grasp of what this means for ocean biology.”
The forum ‘Strange Animal Deaths’ is closed to new topics and replies.