If there have not been effects of ocean acidification in our oceans, perhaps there would be any problem of our oceans being a dumping site for everything known to man but, that is not the case.
Our oceans absorb a significant portion of the CO2 emitted into the atmosphere by human activities, potentially harming shell-forming organisms, and the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere has increased for more than 200 years, or since the industrial revolution, due to the burning of fossil fuels and land-use change. The ocean absorbs around 30% of the CO2 that is released into the atmosphere, and as atmospheric CO2 levels rise, so do ocean CO2 levels.
The entire world’s oceans, especially coastal estuaries and streams, are being affected by ocean acidification. Many economies rely on fish and shellfish, and people all around the world eat seafood as their primary source of protein.
The mission of addressing and resolving the acidification of our world’s oceans is critical. When our world’s oceans suffer, not only do marine life and humans who rely on water sources suffer. Ocean acidification affects every creature on the planet in some way. We all feel the effects of increased carbon dioxide in our oceans, whether we are directly or indirectly affected.
Given that we are all contributing to growing ocean acidity levels and are all negatively affected by this problem, we all have the power to provide a solution. Individuals can complete simple jobs, while groups of interested people can complete enormous tasks. The first step toward a healthy environment is to start someplace.
What is Ocean Acidification?
“Ocean acidification refers to a decline in the pH of the ocean over time, caused mostly by uptake of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere,” according to NOAA.
The absorption of enormous volumes of carbon dioxide (CO2) by the oceans has resulted in a widespread decrease in the pH of saltwater. Ocean acidification is mostly caused by dumping massive amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere via cars, industrial, and agricultural processes.
Causes of Ocean Acidification
Some parts of the ocean, such as hydrothermal vent sites (underwater “hot springs”), are naturally acidic. Ocean acidification used to happen naturally but over much longer periods. It is happening now at a faster rate than in the previous 20 million years leading to many effects of ocean acidification. The causes of ocean acidification, which has been rapidly increasing in recent years, are listed below.
- Increased Ocean Carbon IV Oxide Concentration
- Increased CO2 levels The Atmosphere’s Concentration
- Higher Concentration of Hydrogen ions in the Water
- Burning Fossil Fuels
- Waste Disposal
- Inadequate Land Management
1. Increased Ocean Carbon IV Oxide Concentration
When carbon dioxide levels in the ocean rise, it has an evident effect on the entire sea. When sea animals die on the seabed, their remains accumulate and create corals, which are carbon-based. These organisms also discharge calcium into the water. Because these molecules increase the acidity of the water, they have a far-reaching negative impact on its composition.
2. Increased CO2 levels The Atmosphere’s Concentration
The harm caused in the atmosphere can sometimes spread to the waterways. Carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere as a result of a variety of human activities. This pollutes the water because carbon dioxide is dissolved in seawater, which lowers the pH of the water and contributes to acidification.
3. Higher Concentration of Hydrogen ions in the Water
Some chemical reactions may occur on the seabed, and these reactions can harm the quality of the ocean water. Such interactions can increase hydrogen ions, which, when mixed with other chemicals such as nitrogen, water, and other gases, produce acidity in ocean water.
4. Burning Fossil Fuels
The gases emitted by most cars, airplanes, power plants, and factories that use fossil fuels are known as fossil fuel emissions (coal, oil, or gas). Fossil fuel usage has increased enormously since the industrial revolution, resulting in a slew of climate change-related consequences, including ocean acidification. When petroleum, diesel, and coal are burned, they produce a lot of carbon dioxide.
This raises carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, which then find their way into the water. Carbon and other atmospheric gases enter the sea via acidic rainfalls or direct dissolution into the water.
5. Waste Disposal
Many countries have struggled with waste disposal. Those who live near saltwater masses have been too willing to use the oceans as potential dumping grounds for household and industrial wastes. Nonetheless, while the atmosphere bears the brunt of harmful gases, dangerous liquid wastes wind up in sea waters.
Other wastes, in addition to direct sewage waste disposal, contribute to the acidity of the water. Acidic industrial and agricultural pollutants, for example, are extremely harmful because they lower the PH of ocean water.
6. Inadequate Land Management
Agriculture may exacerbate the problem of ocean acidification. It is possible, especially if the farmers’ tactics are ineffective. These are methods that may cause soil erosion, and the chemicals are swept downstream into the ocean as a result. In brief, if the land is poorly managed, the impact of acidifying soil mineral content and water pollution can harm aquatic bodies.
Countries or cities that have embraced industrialization pose dangerous implications for the Countries or cities that have embraced industrialization have serious environmental consequences. Their presence can only indicate an increase in carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere, which raises acidity when absorbed into the water.
Industries contribute to the release of hazardous gases such as carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and a variety of others, which eventually form acid rain or dissolve in the oceans, resulting in acidic conditions.
Deforestation has two aspects. Forest fires, like fossil fuel fires, release a large amount of carbon dioxide into the sky. Forests are significant because enormous areas of plant life (even in the ocean) are known to act as “carbon sinks,” absorbing CO2 for photosynthesis.
Carbon dioxide levels have historically been balanced, with the CO2 produced being absorbed. Deforestation not only produces more CO2 but also reduces the number of trees available to absorb it. When plants are chopped down and burned or allowed to rot, the carbon in their organic tissue is liberated as carbon dioxide.
Effects of Ocean Acidification
The effects of ocean acidification are starting to manifest on the ocean, which has been relatively stable for tens of millions of years. Ocean acidification is producing a sea change, endangering the ocean and coastal waters’ fundamental chemical balance from pole to pole. Ocean acidification is sometimes referred to as “osteoporosis of the sea” for good reason. Below are some of these effects of ocean acidification.
1. Increase in Carbon Dioxide Concentration in the Ocean
The increase in carbon dioxide concentration in the ocean is one of the effects of ocean acidification. Ocean acidification affects the PH of the ocean water as well as the pH of the atmosphere. In reality, it alters the gaseous concentration in the water, namely increasing carbon dioxide levels. This is due to the formation of additional carbonic acid from the interactions between carbon dioxide and water molecules.
And when it rains on the water bodies, the carbon concentration climbs instead of falling as more carbon dioxide is absorbed and converted to carbonic acid. It will upset the delicate balance of microscopic life that exists in every drop of the ocean. Changes like these can have an impact on fish availability and the ocean’s ability to retain contaminants like future carbon emissions. Suffocation and possibly death of marine organisms could result from this.
2. Loss of Aquatic Life
Loss of aquatic life is one of the effects of ocean acidification. Under normal conditions, seawater supports life. However, some species are affected when the PH level is dropped or raised. Various species of fish, mammals such as whales, sharks, and others are among the aquatic. For certain living creatures, increased acidity makes life difficult, if not impossible. Some organisms in the aquatic biological environment perish or die as a result of this.
3. Food Shortage
Food shortage is one of the effects of ocean acidification. In many ways, ocean acidification contributes to the problem of food scarcity. Humans that rely on fish for food and livelihood suffer socioeconomic consequences when they die. Acidic waters, which have a greater impact on agricultural production, are also a result of this process. Soil acidity rises as a result of acidic water. Certain crops are rendered impossible to cultivate and produce as a result of this. This results in low output and hunger.
4. Food webs Interference
Food web interference is one of the effects of ocean acidification. If the populations of small animals such as clams, oysters, and sea urchins decline due to acidification, larger species such as fish that feed on them may go hungry, and so on up the food chain. Because everything in the water provides food for something else, any rise or reduction in a species’ abundance might have an impact on other species. This is due to the complexity of ocean food webs.
Changes in the population of one species can have an impact on the population of creatures that feed on it, and so on. This could have a significant impact on the future makeup of ocean life across multiple generations. Unfortunately, due to the intricacy of ocean food webs and other ongoing environmental issues such as climate change, predicting how ecosystems would reorganize in response to increased seawater acidity is challenging.
5. Impact on Human Health
The impact on human health is one of the effects of ocean acidification. Humans rely on water for a variety of reasons. When the acidity of ocean water rises, customers and users of that water are put in risky situations. Many dangerous algae species create more toxins and bloom quicker in acidified waters in the laboratory. In the wild, a similar reaction could injure individuals who consume tainted shellfish, as well as sicken fish and marine mammals.
More than a billion people throughout the world rely on seafood as their primary source of nutrition. Fish provides at least one-fifth of the animal protein consumed by approximately 20% of the world’s population. Furthermore, diseases such as cancer can readily be passed to people when they ingest fish tainted with elevated sulfur levels.
6. Impact on the Reefs
The impact on the reefs is one of the effects of ocean acidification. Carbonic acid is formed as more carbon dioxide is absorbed into the oceans. The acid then produces hydrogen and bicarbonate ions, with the hydrogen ion forming further bicarbonate products by bonding with free carbonate ions in the ocean.
Ocean acidification is particularly harmful to bottom-of-the-food-chain animals that rely on calcium carbonate for their skeletons and shells (such as clams, mussels, crabs, phytoplankton, and corals). Acidification limits the availability of carbonate ions in ocean water, which provide the building blocks these animals need to create their shells and skeletons, lowering their offspring’s chances of survival.
The problem with this reaction is that shelled marine animals (corals, foraminifera, and coralline algae) require carbonate ions to form calcium carbonate shells and skeletons. As a result, the more dissolved carbon dioxide in the water, the fewer free carbonate ions are available for the formation of calcium carbonate shells and skeletons.
7. Impact on the Open Ocean Planktonic Ecosystems
The impact on the open ocean planktonic ecosystems is one of the effects of ocean acidification. It’s important to remember that ocean planktonic ecosystems are open. That is, they are ambiguous. It differs from one location to the next, as well as from one ocean to the next. The phytoplankton is the foundation of all marine ecosystems.
Photosynthesis is carried out by phytoplankton, which starts the chain of marine ecosystems. As a result, whenever their photosynthesis fails, the entire marine environment suffers. The fact is that the higher the CO2 levels, the more difficult it is for planktons to do photosynthesis. Plankton processes such as nitrogen-fixing and others are hampered by increased acidity in seawater.
8. Affects Coastal Ecosystems
The fact that the coastal ecosystem is affected is one of the effects of ocean acidification. Climate change is putting a lot of strain on Coastal and marine ecosystems. Many marine species are threatened by ocean acidification, which is compounded by other climatic consequences such as warmer waters, deoxygenation, melting ice, and coastal erosion.
A diverse range of plants makes up the coastal ecology, creating a distinct habitat. It’s only natural that when the water becomes more acidic, the land in coastal locations becomes acidic as well. While a small amount of acidity may aid plant growth, too much acidity can be harmful to their health.
When the environment is harmed, it is only natural that the entire ecosystem suffers as well. The natural processes are severely disrupted by this entire cycle. The productivity of organisms in coastal environments is also reduced as a result of acidity. Their mortality rates may also rise. This could eventually lead to the extinction of a species.
9. Oceans at High Latitudes are in Danger
Oceans at high latitudes being in danger are one of the effects of ocean acidification. The oceans that are located at higher latitudes are the most prolific. The Southern and Arctic Seas are the most productive of all oceans. These are some of the most heavily fished waters, teeming with life. This has already harmed the ocean environment. There’s also the issue of acidity to consider. As the problem of acidity worsens, so does the life in these waters. Their production and lifetime are both decreasing. This is a massive issue.
10. Hinders the bouncing back of Corals
The fact that ocean acidification hinders the bouncing back of corals is one of the effects of ocean acidification. Ocean acidification makes it more difficult for species to recover when additional climate stresses are present. Take, for example, the issue of coral bleaching. Corals’ ability to recover from bleaching events is hampered by ocean acidification, which limits the quantity of calcium carbonate available for corals to grow back to health.
11. Economic Consequences
Economic consequence is one of the effects of ocean acidification. Many jobs and economies around the world are dependent on the ocean’s fish and shellfish. Reduced harvests may disproportionately affect the poorest people and least developed countries, which have the fewest agricultural options.
These issues may influence migration to more metropolitan areas, perhaps causing more social upheaval and possibly conflict. Significant revenue losses, loss of jobs and livelihoods, and other indirect economic expenses could all be consequences for society.
12. Impact on Tourism
The impact on tourism is one of the effects of ocean acidification. The effects of ocean acidification on marine habitats could have a significant impact on this industry (e.g. coral reefs). The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in Australia receives approximately 1.9 million visitors each year and generates more than A$5.4 billion in revenue for the Australian economy.
Solutions to Ocean Acidification
Oceans will continue to become toxic and harm marine life unless immediate action is made to prevent carbon dioxide levels from rising to unsafe levels. Some of the solutions to ocean acidification that we can use are listed below.
- Stringent and applicable regulations
- Civil Education
- Only eating “the right fish”
- Reducing the use of carbon-intensive energy sources
- Use of Alternative Water Sources
- Reduce Meat Consumption
1. Stringent and applicable regulations
The policies of the land are the finest guardians of human behavior. The first step in combating ocean acidification can be taken by ratifying legislation that ensures that garbage disposal, among other pollution-risk activities, is regulated. Such laws would spread to the fisheries department to ensure that food consumption is safe.
2. Civil Education
Governments and international organizations can provide forums to educate and inform the general public about the dangers of climate change and ocean acidification. Such projects can instill self-imposed discipline that serves as a guide for environmental conservation efforts.
Education would also be necessary because the tips given in the theoretical context will not only be pertinent in the real context but also the understanding of the policies. Education is also required since the advice offered in the theoretical context will be useful not only in the real world but also in understanding the policies.
3. Only eating “the right fish”
In any event, a rise in acidity would make eating fish dangerous. As a result, the authorities would be tasked with ensuring that only the least harmful fish make their way into the market. This can assist to reduce the risk of food poisoning and the circulation of carbon dioxide in the environment.
4. Reducing the use of carbon-intensive energy sources
The presence of a high carbon concentration in the atmosphere can be linked to a variety of human activities, some of which can be controlled. The amount of carbon emitted from fossil fuels can be lowered by reducing their consumption. The best accessible choice may be to use alternative/renewable energy sources. Diversifying energy sources, such as using solar and wind as alternative energy sources, can pay off handsomely.
There will be a change in the ocean as the carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere decreases. Another practical and reliable option is geothermal, which is also environmentally benign. Geothermal energy is one such attempt since it produces less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This reduces the risk of contamination of ocean waters.
5. Use of Alternative Water Sources
Skepticism may pay off because it is necessary to ensure safety. Alternative water sources, such as boreholes, wells, or tapped rainwater, can be used instead of ocean water in home settings. This may aid in the reduction of probable ocean water contamination.
6. Reduce Meat Consumption
This is not at all surprising. Livestock production is a significant producer of greenhouse emissions. All of the problems are caused by greenhouse gases. We can lessen the demand for meat by reducing our meat consumption. As a result, there would be fewer animals growing and raising. We would effectively reduce the number of greenhouse gases discharged into the environment as a result of the same. Although it may appear ludicrous at first, this is one of the most efficient strategies to combat ocean acidification.
Ocean Acidification Facts
- Each year, the ocean absorbs around 26% of the CO2 released into the atmosphere by human activities.
- Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, ocean acidity has grown by 30%. This rise is 100 times quicker than any other shift in acidity that marine creatures have encountered in the previous 20 million years.
- By 2100, CO2 emissions at current levels could render the ocean up to 150 percent more acidic.
- By the end of the century, if atmospheric CO2 concentrations continue to rise at their current rate, the ocean will prove corrosive to the shells of many marine animals. It’s unclear how or if aquatic species will adapt.
- Plankton, which forms the foundation of the marine food chain and is essential for the survival of larger fish, may be threatened by acidification.
- Coral reefs may become inhospitable to most portions of the ocean as a result of ocean acidification, affecting tourism, food security, coastline protection, and biodiversity.
- The ocean absorbs 22 million tons of CO2 every day from human activity.
- Ocean acidification is reducing the ocean’s ability to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, potentially worsening its impact on climate change.
- With carbon market prices ranging from $20 to $200 per tonne of carbon, ocean CO2 uptake implies an annual subsidy to the world economy of $40 to $400 billion, or 0.1–1% of global GDP.
- To fully comprehend and alleviate the effects of ocean acidification, more research and collective action are required.
- The Ocean and Coastal Sustainability Blueprint provides recommendations for taking immediate action to minimize and adapt to ocean acidification.
Effects of Ocean Acidification – FAQs
Why is ocean acidification a problem?
Carbonate, a crucial building ingredient of saltwater, is depleted as a result of ocean acidification. This makes it more difficult for marine animals to produce shells and skeletons, such as coral and some plankton, and existing shells may dissolve
Where is ocean acidification happening?
In a 2015 study revealing the vulnerability of the $1 billion US shellfish sector to ocean acidification, the Pacific Northwest, Long Island Sound, Narragansett Bay, Chesapeake Bay, Gulf of Mexico, and locations off Maine and Massachusetts were identified as hot spots.