Ocean Acidification Is on the Rise

The world’s oceans are an integral component of the global community. Not only are these large bodies of water home to various creatures, but they also have supplied resources for humanity ever since the origin of civilization. However, due to the recent influx of new industrial models and carbon dioxide emissions, the oceans are undergoing acidification, which could pose a severe threat to humans and aquatic animals alike in the future.

Similar to global warming, ocean acidification is primarily caused by the excessive use of non-renewable energy sources. When these sources are burned, carbon dioxide is emitted. Ocean water then absorbs the carbon diox- ide, and chemical reactions occur that can have have harmful effects.

Calcium carbonate minerals serve as building blocks for the skeletons and shells of many marine organisms. Seawater is usually supersaturated (full) with calcium carbonate, leaving more than enough for calcifying organisms to build their skeletons and shells. However, continued ocean acidification leads to parts of the ocean being undersaturated with these minerals, which in turn negatively impacts the organisms’ ability to produce and maintain their shells.

While this may initially appear to only affect shelled organisms like oysters, clams, sea urchins, shallow water corals, deep sea corals and calcareous plankton, in reality the entire food web is at risk. When shelled organisms are reduced, then many predators lose a primary source of food. In addition, many people rely on food from the ocean as a vital source of protein. Harming ma- rine life affects the fishing industry and the economy.

We must do everything in our power to mitigate the acidification of oceans. First, we must strive for a greener world by opting to use renewable energy— sources like solar energy and hydropower in place of continued use of coal and petroleum. Try to reduce your own carbon dioxide emissions as much as possible (carpooling to school and/or work). Every bit helps! 

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