Ocean News

Acidifying oceans….

10th March 2009

It is something that’s been covered by SOSF before, but it remains the issue that is often overlooked when headlines warning of rising CO2 levels hit the media: ocean acidification.

Ocean acidification happens when CO2 from the atmosphere is absorbed by our oceans (which a large chunk of it is). CO2 reacts with the sea water to produce carbonic acid, decreasing the pH of the sea water. As industrialisation has continued to pump out vast amounts of CO2 the oceans have slowly become less alkaline, increasing the sea’s acidity level by about 0.1 pH point. Now 0.1 may not sound much, but recent work by scientists is telling us that unless we curtail our CO2 outputs quickly and by large amounts, our oceans are heading towards levels of acidity they haven’t experienced for the last 65 million years. As marine organisms which make up the base of the ocean food chain can be acutely sensitive to even the slightest change in pH, the consequences could be severe and wide ranging.

SOSF is therefore supporting the work of Jason Hall-Spencer at Plymouth University, who has been using a unique "natural lab" to explore the possible effects of pH changes on these marine organisms.

So what exactly does an increase in ocean acidity mean for our oceans? And what have Jason Hall-Spencer and his team at Plymouth Universitydiscovered? Well, explore these links and find out for yourself why ocean acidification is beginning to get the sort of media and political coverage that atmospheric CO2 changes have been used to over the last few years.