Saturday, October 25, 2014

A 'Very Young Field' of Research Tries to Measure Looming Costs of Ocean Acidification

A selection from Washington state's oyster crop that is already suffering from ocean acidification.  (Credit: Gov. Jay Inslee) Click to enlarge.
This month, the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity released a report updating the impacts of ocean acidification on marine life.  This time, it put estimated costs on the predicted damage, hoping to make governments aware of the potential size of the various threats.

While many of the effects of growing acidification remain invisible, by the end of this century, things will have changed drastically, the report found.  One estimate looking only at lost ecosystem protections, such as that provided by tropical reefs, cited an economic value of $1 trillion annually.

Over the last 200 years, the world's oceans have absorbed more than a quarter of the carbon dioxide released by humans, becoming 26 percent more acidic.  Though technically waters have not yet become acidic, according to the pH scale, the report found this could occur by 2100 if emissions continue to rise.

Though large, these changes are still difficult to comprehend, said Murray Roberts, a professor of marine biology at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, who co-edited the report.  That's why the economics of ocean acidification need to be discussed, he said.

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