“Ocean acidification poses a serious threat to the marine ecosystem on the West Coast, as well as the welfare of coastal communities and businesses that are intricately tied to the health of the ocean.”. The other man nods knowingly. Increasing acidity has possibly harmful consequences, such as depressing metabolic rates in jumbo squid, depressing the immune responses of blue mussels, and coral bleaching. “I hate to think what’ll happen if the problem spreads. While the Orbiting Carbon Observatory may be the newest NASA mission to help address the issue of ocean acidification, NASA has many other projects and missions that provide important information about ocean biology and chemistry that relates directly to this problem. Nobody really knows what the problem is.”, The taller man shakes his head sadly. Christopher Sabine on a field study in the Southern Ocean aboard the NOAA Research Vessel Ronald H Brown. During upwelling, displaced surface waters are replaced by cold, nutrient-rich water that wells up from below. Seafood Choices Alliance. Since most corals live in shallow waters, coral reefs, some of the most biologically diverse places on Earth, are particularly vulnerable. Seawater is naturally basic or alkaline, but ocean acidification is making it less so. Sabine, C.L., et al. shell fish: clams, mussels, oysters, corals, zooplankton, sea urchins. A CTD — an acronym for Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth — is the primary tool for collecting water samples to determine essential physical properties of sea water. Feely published these findings in the mid-1980s, but few people noticed. The rate at which acidification occurs is a determining factor in the extent to which calcifying organisms will be able to adapt. However it may benefit some species, for example increasing the growth rate of the sea star, Pisaster ochraceus, while shelled plankton species may flourish in altered oceans. Ocean acidification refers to a reduction in the pH of the ocean over an extended period time, caused primarily by uptake of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. “Yeah, I’ve heard that the baby oysters start growing, but a lot of them just don’t make it to maturity. As Feely watches himself speak on the big screen, he marvels at how far he and his colleagues have come. The crew lowered CTD to within 10 meters above the seafloor and then reeled it in again. Water samples from a research cruise show reduced-pH waters upwell along the West Coast. The oyster larvae are swimming in these acidified waters, which can be corrosive enough to dissolve their fragile shells. The global oceans on average have already become about 30 percent more acidic since preindustrial times. The increase in hydrogen ions (H+) reduces the seawater pH (a measure of acidity). Fossil fuels being emitted by human activities and then absorbed by the ocean + the usage of boat motors by the fishing industries that release CO2 How are coral reefs affected by Ocean Acidification? Will species adapt to changes in ocean chemistry, or will they migrate to different areas? Oysters in deep trouble: Is Pacific Ocean’s chemistry killing sea life? Since preindustrial times the world’s oceans have become about 30 percent more acidic. Crustaceans, such as the blue crab shown at right, and shellfish, including oysters (left) and mussels (center), are popular favorites at any seafood restaurant. During much of the cruise, frequent 35-knot wind gusts had made the launch of the CTD quite difficult. There will be some winners and losers, says Doney, as the effects of growing ocean acidification are felt. The rest is taken up by terrestrial vegetation and soils or remains in the atmosphere, increasing the greenhouse effect. His thoughts returned to the oyster crisis back home. Winner, Loser or Adapter? Won’t sea life adapt since the oceans were more acidic in the past? (2004), Impact of Anthropogenic CO2 on the CaCO3 System in the Oceans, Science, v305, 362-366. Although there may be some winners, scientific research tells us that there will be far, far more losers. Whiskey Creek Hatchery supplies young oysters to roughly 50-85% of West Coast oyster operations in a given year. Feely was dismayed by the list of organisms at risk from ocean acidification. Still, critical questions remain. To get the best experience possible, please download a compatible browser. Ocean acidification is literally causing a sea change that is threatening the fundamental chemical balance of ocean and coastal waters from pole to pole. Likely casualties of ocean acidification are the marine plants and animals that use carbonate to form hard shells or other structures. Scientists have only recently started to look for impacts in the ocean, so this field of knowledge is still emerging. Why does ocean acidification matter? “Environmental stress is leading to more incidents of ‘coral bleaching,’ which occurs when the symbiotic algae that lives inside the coral leaves or dies, and from which reefs often do not recover. For example, corals are vulnerable to acidification, yet they are essential to coral reef habitats that support a wide array of other species. They’re deep in conversation. This day was no different. In 1981, Feely’s program began measuring the amount of carbon dioxide in the ocean to complement the records of atmospheric carbon dioxide that had been taken since the late 1950s.