The oceans are known to absorb carbon dioxide (CO2). This is a type of greenhouse gas. Since the days of the Industrial Revolution, the consumption of fossil fuel ascended to high levels. With the burning of fossil fuels, the amount of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere has risen as well. Whenever the air meets the ocean, the oceans absorb carbon dioxide. Waves and other movement of the oceans aid in absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Just like the plants on land, plants in the ocean absorb carbon dioxide. When water meets with carbon dioxide, this forms carbonic acid. The oceans absorb 50% of the carbon dioxide generated by human beings. With the absorption of carbon dioxide into the oceans, the pH levels in the ocean have dropped. As pH levels drop, acidity rises. This means that the acidity of the world's oceans has risen. The acidification of our oceans will have an effect on both marine species and human beings alike.
Effects of Rising Acidity Levels on Marine Wildlife
Marine animals such as crabs, lobsters, oysters, and clams will experience impediments to their own physical development.
For starters, shell development is made more difficult by rising acid levels in the oceans. This is the process of which shell development is hindered. Metabolism is a process needed for keeping up with cellular processes that get rid of unwanted components in organisms, and building up the physical components or organisms. For marine mollusks and shellfish, metabolism helps in building up the shells and carapaces. As acid levels rise in the oceans, metabolism normally dedicated to building up these organisms are diverted to a balancing act. Extra energy is needed to fight off acidity. This makes it more difficult for shell development. The shells of clams and oysters are affected by carbonic acid because their shells are made of calcium carbonate. Carbonic acid dissolves calcium carbonate.
Fish themselves do not have shells. They also feel the effects alongside marine animals with shells. Carbonic acid affects the pH levels of fish. This causes a blood condition known as acidosis. A change in the pH level of a fish's blood will cause problems. Its body has to expend more energy to bring its pH levels to normalcy. Acid had to be expelled from its body via other organs, such as kidneys and gills. Fish often have a harder time doing other tasks such as swimming and processing food that it consumes. It impedes cellular growth. Acidification has an effect on reducing the number of fish. One way this is done is by hindering reproduction. In many cases, fish, shellfish, and mollusks die because of the effects of acidification.
Coral and plankton are affected by ocean acidification. The skeletal structure of coral is made of calcium carbonate. Polyps make up coral reefs in addition to the skeletons of coral. The skeletal structures that support coral are dissolved by carbonic acid produced by the absorption of carbon dioxide. This hurts coral reefs immensely because the absorption of calcium carbonate is deterred by acidification. There are several species of plankton that have shells. Like any shell, carbonic acid will have ills effects on it due to preventing the absorption of calcium carbonate, and by dissolving calcium carbonate.
Effects of Rising Acidity Levels on Humans
The acidification of the oceans has an effect on human beings. Humans living near oceans have depended on the oceans for sustenance and as part of the economy. A rise in carbonic acid in the world's oceans, by affecting marine species, will affect humans who depend on such species for food and for economics.
One particular place of note are the waters off the coast of Alaska. A large part of Alaska's economy comes from fishing. Crabs are one particular product harvested from Alaska's cold waters. Alaska's cold waters are particularly adept at absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. As mentioned before, low pH levels in the oceans hinder growth in shellfish, and cause body chemistry problems for fish. In a place like Alaska, which depends on its cold ocean waters for its fishing economy, this will have a particularly immense effect on people. This is an industry that supports thousands of people. While there are still plenty of fish available, this could cease to be. There is a potential for the numbers of fish, shellfish, and mollusks to be reduced rapidly due to ocean acidification.
The need for fossil fuels will still be there. People will still need to run factors, drive automobiles, heat homes, and do other activities where the use of fuel is required. The boats used for fishing require fuel. The challenge will be about striking a balance between the use of fossil fuels, and maintaining the integrity of our oceans. It will be about finding more ways to mitigate the emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
About the Author
Marques Hayes is a freelance writer and World Atlas contributor. He holds a BA in geography from Kennesaw State University.
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