The Acid Test for Ocean Life
When carbon dioxide mixes with sea water, carbonic acid results. This process causes chemical changes to sea water known as ocean acidification. Some scientists call ocean acidification the "Evil Twin" of climate change.
It is estimated that the oceans have already absorbed 30% to 40% of the carbon-overload in the atmosphere. This service of the oceans has so far provided a temporary buffer against the impact of the accelerating warming of the atmosphere and the disruption of climate.
However, this absorption can be catastrophic for marine life. Excess carbolic acid dissolves calcium in corals; it eats away at the shells of crustaceans and crabs; and hinders the growth of plankton and fish. Coral reefs are the nurseries for thousands of ocean species, offering habitat, protection and nourishment.
Without coral reefs, fish populations decline and food chains are disrupted. In addition, many islands and coasts, such as those on the northern shore of the Hawaiian Islands will be overrun with waves, as the coral reefs are their breakers and shoreline protection.
Marine scientists have studied this change in ocean chemistry for several decades, but it is still impossible to know precisely how ocean acidification will cascade through the marine food chain and how it will affect marine ecosystems. As ocean acidification, lowering oxygen levels, and warming temperatures accelerate, scientists recognize the urgent need to intensify their research as a basis for sound decision making and urgent action.
For the latest international information on ocean acidification, please visit the ICC Working Group on Climate.