Increased carbon dioxide emissions are causing oceans worldwide to become more acidic, and new research suggests the Arctic Ocean is hit particularly hard. The oceans absorb between 25-30% of these emissions, which reacts to make the water more acidic. Colder water absorbs carbon dioxide more easily, and marine animals like oysters and other bivalves struggle to form their shells as pH levels decrease.
The research looked at 16 years of data around aragonite, a key mineral that plankton, shellfish, and corals use to build shells. Researchers found that the areas with low aragonite levels expanded from 5% to 31% of the water column, meaning these organisms struggle to survive. Plankton contribute 50% of the Earth’s oxygen, and $2.5 trillion dollars of economic activity is supported by the ocean annually. California, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island enacted legislation last year to develop study commissions and issue recommendations to address acidification. Massachusetts and Oregon and are considering similar bills in 2017.
- Washington Post article: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/02/27/scientists-just-measured-a-rapid-growth-in-acidity-in-the-arctic-ocean-linked-to-climate-change/?utm_term=.1bace42ad3f8
- Study published in Nature: http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nclimate3228.html
- NCEL webpage with ocean acidification resources: http://ncel.net/ocean-acidification/