Why Is the Ocean Becoming More Acidic?

Each year, more than a quarter of the world's carbon dioxide emissions are absorbed by the oceans. That could be a good thing, except all that CO2 actually alters ocean chemistry, making it more acidic.

The ocean is becoming more acidic primarily due to the increased concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, resulting from human activities, particularly the burning of fossil fuels. Here's how it happens:

    Carbon Dioxide Absorption

    When CO2 is released into the atmosphere from activities such as burning coal, oil, and gas, a portion of it is absorbed by the ocean's surface. This process is known as oceanic uptake or carbon sequestration.

    Carbonic Acid Formation

    When CO2 dissolves in seawater, it reacts with water molecules to form carbonic acid. This reaction increases the concentration of hydrogen ions (H+), reducing the pH of seawater and making it more acidic.

    Impact on Marine Chemistry

    The increase in ocean acidity affects the carbonate chemistry of seawater. Carbonate ions (CO32-) are essential building blocks for marine organisms to form shells, skeletons, and coral reefs. As seawater becomes more acidic, carbonate ions become less available, making it more challenging for marine organisms to produce and maintain their calcium carbonate structures.

The consequences of ocean acidification are concerning:

    Coral Reefs

    Coral reefs, home to a diverse array of marine life, are particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification. Higher acidity levels make it harder for corals to build and maintain their calcium carbonate structures, leading to coral bleaching and reef degradation.

    Shellfish and Marine Life

    Many shell-forming organisms, including oysters, clams, mussels, and some planktonic species, are also affected by ocean acidification. Acidic waters can inhibit their ability to build and repair shells, impacting their survival and the entire marine food web.

    Ecosystem Disruption

    Ocean acidification can disrupt the balance of marine ecosystems, affecting the growth and development of various species. Changes in species abundance and distribution can have cascading effects on entire food chains and ecosystems.

Addressing ocean acidification requires reducing CO2 emissions and mitigating the causes of climate change. This can involve transitioning to cleaner energy sources, increasing energy efficiency, and implementing sustainable practices to reduce carbon emissions. Additionally, protecting and restoring coastal habitats, such as mangroves and seagrass meadows, can help buffer the impacts of acidification and promote the resilience of marine ecosystems.


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"Why Is the Ocean Becoming More Acidic? "