Today in our society, the climate change that is caused by the rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide known as CO2 is commonly acknowledged, however, the immense absorption of CO2 by the ocean has received far less attention. It is sometimes said that “global warming” is really “ocean warming” and the oceans power to create life under waters is rivaled by our power to destroy it. The Earth’s oceans have maintained a moderately stable acidity level for millions of years and within this steady environment, the rich and varied web of life in our seas has developed and flourished. However, our planet’s seas have quickly absorbed approximately 25 to 30 percent of civilization's CO2 releases and will absorb 85 percent in the future, as water and air continue to mix at the ocean’s surface level. Research has shown that the rate at which sediments dissolve cannot possibly keep pace with the far faster rate of acidification. Society can continue to depend on the ocean, but the cost is a rising threat to all marine life. With ocean acidification continuing at a horrifying rate, marine animals will find it harder to build skeletons, construct reefs, or simply grow and breathe. Scientist’s research indicates that the recent and rapid drop in surface level pH could have destructive global consequences, contributing to the collapse and downfall of this ancient balance. Humans are acidifying the ocean and fundamentally changing its remarkably delicate geochemical balance and in the future, all marine life will suffer and die.
Compared with past geologic events, the speed and scale of this conversion is astonishing and although some organisms may tolerate a certain amount of change due to ocean acidification, thinner shells belonging to snails, shells, urchins, clams, crabs and lobsters will make others more vulnerable to damage or predators. Some organisms may tolerate acidification of internal fluids to a point, yet many will expend more energy to maintain their optimal acid-base balance or will struggle to supply their body with oxygen and to sustain cellular functions vital to life. As marine life struggles at the expense of coping with acidification, fish and sea creatures will be more prone to dying. Deep-sea animals will experience severe stress levels as they have adapted to an extremely stable environment and even if these animals do survive in the future, their vital energy will be channeled into their day-to-day survival, opposed to using that energy for growth and reproduction.
We will continue to see rapid effects of ocean acidification in animal groups that have finely tuned environmental ranges, particularly those already “living on the edge” such as coral reefs, which have already suffered widespread bleaching and death from warming ocean temperatures. Massive communities of tiny animals that live in the ocean’s midlevels will also suffer affects. These creatures migrate to the surface layer at night to feed yet sink to deep water during the daytime to avoid predators. In so doing, they form a critical link between the warm, oxygenated surface layer and the cold, oxygen-depleted waters of the deep, as well as a critical link in the ocean wide food chain. Increased acidity and expanding zones of low oxygen in some regions may force these midwater organisms into shallower waters where they will be more exposed to predators. If this occurs, as expected, the zones of low oxygen will expand and intensify and many of these migrators could die. These effects could destroy the migratory lifeline between shallow and deep water and the outcome could impact society’s ocean fisheries and all marine life and food chains forever.
Yes, every year tens of millions of people from around the world travel to the Great Barrier Reef, the Caribbean, or Palau in the far western Pacific to enjoy a magical adventure. But coral reefs are far more than just tourist destinations. All the coral…