Monday, December 17, 2007

Acid oceans worst in North Pacific

If you like the Pacific Ocean, you should start to worry about CO2 in the atmosphere. Because of the way ocean waters move, the acid ocean problem will start here.

How bad is the problem right now?

"Corrosive water between 600 and 700 feet deep has already been detected off the continental shelf of Washington, Oregon and Alaska" said NOAA scientist Richard Feely

So what? Why should we worry? Because the entire ocean food web could unravel. Anything that uses calcium carbonate, for shells or bones will have a hard time making shells or bones. Where acidification is severe, corrosive water will dissolve shells or bones and make it impossible to grow more.

The biggest bad news is that ocean acidification won't go away quickly, even if we reduce CO2 in the atmosphere. Some scientists say the ocean will become permanently more acidic.

“For all practical purposes, this is permanent,” said Steven Emerson, UW oceanography professor. “That’s not true of temperature. But with ocean acidification, the time scales are long.”

Uh-oh

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

The oceans produce most of the oxygen on earth. What does acidification mean for this?

Eric

Mark Powell said...

We don't know what acid oceans will do to oxygen production, but it probably won't be good. Best guess is reduced productivity and reduced oxygen production, since some parts of the food web will not thrive.

Kevin Z said...

Crustaceans don't have shells with calcium carbonate...

Tracy Rouleau said...

Crustaceans use calcite to harden their chitinous exoskeletons - and low pH affects the juvenile stages of development (http://www.afsc.noaa.gov/Quarterly/amj2007/divrptsRACE10.htm).

I just saw Feely present this data, and had a class on ocean acidification (taught in part by Dave Hutchins who accompanied Feely on the research cruise that Feely is discussing in the blog) - I was studying corals, but frankly it's too depressing and really hopeless - at least if you know about OA...

The real big problem about ocean acidification is the potential to decimate populations of plankton (both zooplankton and phytoplankton) that form the basis for the ocean food chain. Forams are already being altered in the Southernmost seas, and no matter what we do right now, even if we stop ALL CO2 emissions, the ocean will continue to acidify for at least the next 50-100 years...

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