The ocean is getting more and more acidic
Due to carbon emissions, the ocean is changing, which endangers a whole series of marine organisms. Acidification is a consequence of climate change; a slow but exorable real-life experiment in which industrial emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere are absorbed and then undergo chemical reactions in the sea. Rising ocean acidity has already bleached Florida's coral reefs and killed many precious oysters in the Pacific Northwest.
Marine life threatened by rising ocean acidity
Grace Saba is an assistant professor of marine ecology at Rutgers University, where she studies how fish, clams and other creatures respond to increasing levels of ocean acidity. Now scientists like Saba want to know what could happen to the animals that live in the northeast, a region home to commercially important fish, wild stocks of clams and scallops that cannot escape growing acidic waters.
Scientists say the pH level of the world's seas has already dropped - on average from 8.2 to 8.1 on the pH scale (lower numbers are more acidic). This represents a 26% decline over the last century (because the pH scale is logarithmic). But as the ocean absorbs more industrial carbon dioxide emissions, its pH is expected to double to 7.7 pH units by the end of the century, according to Aleck Wang , professor of marine chemistry at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution . . Which is very bad news for all those who wish to enjoy the beaches for a long time to come in their ethical swimsuits.
By killing crucial organisms like corals, oysters and many plankton, acidic waters can upset the food chain of the oceans. Fishermen in the Gulf of Maine are already seeing seasonal changes in ocean acidity that could one day threaten a seafood harvest worth more than $600 million to Maine's economy. Further south in the mid-Atlantic region, seafood fishermen are also worried about their future.
"We're all trying to figure out the right way forward," said AJ Erskine , owner of a commercial oyster hatchery on Virginia's Potomac River. “I don't know if there is a solution, but the more data we have, the more knowledge we have. If we don't know the pH, how can we deal with it?”. Erskine is part of a group of fishermen, scientists, and state fisheries managers, called the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Acidification Network , which is pushing for more research and attention on the issue. As we also draw your attention to the choice of sustainable swimwear to contribute to the preservation of the environment.
Scientists are mobilizing
Scientists from the University of Delaware and NOAA (the United States Oceanic and Atmospheric Observation Agency) have just deployed the first permanent buoy to measure carbon dioxide levels in the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in eastern United States. The moored buoy will help researchers determine if the bay can handle more CO2 from the atmosphere while combating human-caused pollution through surrounding farms and factories.
In another attempt to study acidification, researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration launched 7-meter-long, sail-powered surface drones across the Pacific and Arctic oceans to collect data on wind, temperature, and acidity.