Saturday, June 27, 2015

Rapidly Acidifying Arctic Ocean Threatens Fisheries

NOAA and partner scientists collected water samples to measure ocean acidification in the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort seas on two research cruises aboard USCG cutter Healy. (Credit: Mathis/NOAA) Click to Enlarge.
Parts of the Arctic Ocean within the next 10 years could reach levels of ocean acidification that would threaten the ability of marine animals to form shells, new research suggests.

Die-offs in such creatures could have ramifications up the food chain in some of the most productive fisheries in the world and provide a preview of what is in store for the rest of the world’s oceans down the road.

“The Arctic can be a great indicator” of future issues, oceanographer Jeremy Mathis, of the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, said.

Ocean acidification is a process happening in tandem with the warming of the planet and is driven by the same human-caused increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that is trapping excess heat.  The oceans absorb much of that excess CO2, where it dissolves and reacts with water to form carbonic acid (also found in soda and seltzer).

As CO2 emissions have continued to grow, so has the amount of carbonic acid in the oceans, decreasing their pH.  The ocean generally has a pH of 8.2, making it slightly basic (a neutral pH is 7, while anything above is basic and anything below is acidic).  An ocean that is becoming less basic is a problem for the creatures like shellfish and coral that depend on specific ocean chemistry to have enough of the mineral calcium carbonate to make their hard shells and skeletons.
What’s happening in the Arctic now and what will come to pass over the next decade or two also show what will eventually happen in the rest of the oceans, especially if CO2 emissions continue unabated.

Read more at Rapidly Acidifying Arctic Ocean Threatens Fisheries

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