The Hot Zone

THE COMING SEA CHANGE

Posted by Alison Hawkes on October 9, 2009
Category : The Oceans

by Erica Rex

A few facts:*
• The ocean has absorbed fully half of the fossil carbon released to the atmosphere since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
• Measurements carried out by scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and NOAA demonstrated that the upper few hundred meters of the South Atlantic have higher carbon concentrations now than in 1993.
• Ken Caldeira, an oceanographer at the Carnegie Institution of Washington has done studies suggesting that within a few centuries, ocean pH will be lower than it’s been any time in the last 300 million years.
• Lower oceanic pH is deleteriously affecting marine organisms that have hard parts made of calcium carbonate.
• Studies have suggested that a tiny variety of polar snail, the Pteropod (Licacina helicana) will disappear altogether. They’re a key link in the food chain in the Southern Ocean, which supports large populations of whales and seabirds.

Ocean acidification affects different parts of the ocean very differently, depending upon the kind of organisms that inhabit each niche, and the ecosystems they’re part of. Over the next few weeks, the Hot Zone will be speaking to scientists whose research explores the inner workings of niche ecosystems.

If you have specific questions, please post them in the comments section, and we’ll get answers from the scientists themselves.

*Source: The Dangers of Ocean Acidification. Scott Doney, in Scientific American, pp 58-65, March, 2006.

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