Ocean Acidification Happening at 10X Rate Than Ever Before - Study

The increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is leading to increasing rates of ocean acidification, a process that could have catastrophic effects. A new study published by Nature Climate Change shows that ocean acidification is happening at a rate ten times faster than ever before, according to the study’s author, German scientist Hans Poertner.


Ocean acidification occurs when pH levels--a measure of acidity--fall in the ocean. The lower the pH is, the higher the acid is. So falling pH levels in the ocean mean that acid is increasing, which has major effects for species that live in the sea, particularly for species that build calcium-based shells.

“Studies have shown that a more acidic environment has a dramatic effect on some calcifying species, including oysters, clams, sea urchins, shallow water corals, deep sea corals, and calcareous plankton,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration states. “When shelled organisms are at risk, the entire food web may also be at risk. Today, more than a billion people worldwide rely on food from the ocean as their primary source of protein. Many jobs and economies in the U.S. and around the world depend on the fish and shellfish in our oceans.”

Poertner told The Guardian newspaper that the ocean is already suffering because of global warming, but that acidification is going to exacerbate problems.

The new study in Nature Climate Change was based on a close look at five components of the ocean’s eco-system: fish, crustaceans, orals, echinoderms and molluscs. Acidification in the sea impacted all of those species. This comes on the heels of a previous study from Columbia University that suggested that the pace of acidification has no parallel for the past 300 milion years.

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