ACIDIFICATION of the OCEANS: What it is, Causes and Consequences

Help the development of the site, sharing the article with friends!

Ocean acidification is probably one of the most important environmental problems today, and yet it is not given the importance it deserves. Pollution can occur in several forms and that of the oceans is becoming a problem of considerable dimensions for the food web, so urgent measures are necessary to ensure the health of the oceans before pollution kills marine life , on which human beings and a large number of species throughout the world depend. In this Green Ecologist article we talk about the ocean acidification, what it is, causes and consequences.

What is ocean acidification

Ocean acidification consists of a set of chemical reactions that take place through the CO2 absorption by seawater and that cause an increase in the concentration of hydrogen ions, which leads to an increase in the acidity of the water and a decrease in the relative amount of carbonate ions.

Ocean acidification is global and affects both coastal estuaries and canals. The ocean absorbs about 30% of the CO2 released into the atmosphere, so as the levels of carbon dioxide increase in the atmosphere, so do the levels of this gas in the ocean.

Causes of ocean acidification

Ocean acidification is directly caused by the increased CO2 concentrations of anthropic origin emitted into the atmosphere since, as mentioned above, the ocean absorbs about 30% of these emissions. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution (more than two centuries ago), the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased due to the burning of fossil fuels and changes in land use, and the pH of surface ocean waters has decreased by 0.1 units. pH, which, being a logarithmic scale, implies an increase of approximately 30% in the acidity of sea water.

There are scientific indications, which are still being investigated, which affirm that if there is a continuation in this absorption of carbon dioxide by seawater, by the end of this century the pH of surface marine waters will have increased 150% compared to the current one. , which would represent the repetition of a scenario that disappeared more than 20 million years ago.

Consequences of ocean acidification

With the dissolution of CO2 in seawater, carbonic acid is generated, which reduces the water pH and it changes the environmental conditions, thus causing the acidification of the environment, which affects different marine organisms in different ways. These are the main consequences of ocean acidification.

  • On the one hand, photosynthetic algae and sea grasses can benefit from the increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the water, since they depend on it to survive. In this other article you can learn more about it: What is blue carbon or blue carbon.
  • On the other hand, carbonate ions They are the fundamental pieces in the manufacture of calcareous structures such as shells and skeletons, so their decrease in the environment can cause the creation and maintenance of both new and existing calcareous structures to be difficult in organisms such as clams, oysters, corals. deep and shallow water, sea cucumbers or calcareous plankton. In addition, non-calcifying marine organisms can also be affected by this change in seawater chemistry, as in the case of certain fish, whose ability to detect predators in more acidic waters can be impaired and, when these organisms are in danger, the entire food web can be endangered.
  • People are also affected by ocean acidification Thus, there are many economies that depend on fishing for fish and shellfish and many millions of people depend on food obtained from the oceans as the main source of protein in their diets, so that both food security and health and safety Many people's work that depends on life at sea would be harmed by this process.

Possible solutions to ocean acidification

It seems logical to think that solution to ocean acidification It must fall on the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, as this will reduce the amount of CO2 absorbed by the oceans and will help to alleviate the unpredictable consequences that this fact could entail. There is scientific evidence that, to achieve good ocean health, the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide should be significantly less than 400 ppm, a limit that has already been exceeded.

To conclude this article on what is ocean acidification, its causes and consequences, we present some solutions that could serve to eliminate this process:

Report more on ocean acidification

Giving a voice to this problem through environmental organizations, the government and the media because, even though it is an environmental priority, it continues to be relatively unknown to a large part of the population. It is important to create a collective conscience to give it, as a society, the urgency it deserves, as its consequences could be catastrophic, as in the case of a mass extinction.

Reduce your carbon footprint

Actions such as reducing the consumption of meat and that the quantity consumed is of sustainable production, since the meat industry produces more greenhouse gases than all forms of transport combined, being the most important cause of climate change and, therefore, Hence, the acidification of the oceans. Another way to reduce your carbon footprint is to reduce household energy consumption and waste less water. For these purposes you can turn off the lights when they are not being used, hire a renewable energy supply, use shorter wash cycles in the washing machine or take shorter showers, among other things. It is also important to make greater use of public transport and reduce the use of private cars and airplanes. We also reduce our ecological footprint by reducing the consumption of plastics, such as avoiding single-use plastics such as disposable water bottles, straws, bags and tableware, and recycling all used plastics. The enormous amount of waste that is dumped into the sea is one of the biggest problems that contributes the most to the acidification of the oceans and there are areas where these large masses of waste congregate and affect marine life.

We recommend these other Green Ecologist posts about What is the carbon footprint and How to reduce my carbon footprint.

Be Conscious Consumers

Actions such as not buying coral products (as they are disappearing at alarming rates) and, in general, buying fewer things, since their manufacture and transport involve high energy consumption. It is important to buy only when necessary, of good quality and locally produced and sustainable whenever possible. It is important to follow the principle of reducing, reusing, recycling and rejecting new objects in order to conserve energy and reduce the pollution associated with the emission of greenhouse gases derived from the extraction of matter, the manufacture and the management of waste.

Learn more about these topics in these other articles in which we talk about What is responsible consumption and Zero Waste: what it is and how to be it.

Improve the management and conservation of the oceans

Good management, conservation and restoration of the oceans is necessary, which is why, in 2016, during the IUCN World Conservation Congress, a resolution was approved to protect 30% of the oceans by 2030. Besides, in each country or community certain measures are taken to do so, although in some areas more than in others.

If you want to read more articles similar to Ocean acidification: what it is, causes and consequences, we recommend that you enter our Pollution category.

You will help the development of the site, sharing the page with your friends
This page in other languages: