Friday, August 04, 2006

Acid oceans threaten sea life

A new horror story for the oceans, just when you thought you'd heard enough. Human-produced carbon dioxide has made our oceans more acid, harming ocean life, and the situation is only getting worse.

Ocean acidification is real, and it could worse for oceans than global warming.

Experiments suggest that realistic levels of acidification may cause calcium carbonate to dissolve. Not a big deal? It is if you're an animal like a coral or a pteropod, with a calcium carbonate skeleton. Imagine having your bones dissolve, sort of like osteoporosis for corals.

Ocean acidification is caused by increases in carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels. Carbon dioxide dissolves in seawater and turns into carbonic acid, increasing acidity and (for you science geeks) lowering ocean pH. So just when we're all talking about global warming (or the myth of global warming) and it's harm (or benefits!), it seems we've been missing the boat, the real carbon dioxide threat may be ocean acidification.

Let's hope we'll find a way to avoid the ultimate bad acid trip.

NOAA photo: pteropod

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