GR: This post is about CO2 and ocean acidification. Other blog posts about plastic in the oceans, overfishing, garbage dumping, and toxic runoff suggest that the cost of the human impact on oceans will be far greater than the trillion dollars estimated by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. Those costs are based on short-term factors. Species extinction is permanent. Recovery of biodiversity will take millennia. Some would say that causing the loss of a single species is unacceptable. So once again, I have to say that we must push harder. Sign those petitions, take time for the rallies and marches, send letters, make phone calls, join local groups, and enter local politics.
The following from Robert Scribbler.
“Ecosystems that have thrived and developed over millions of years are being smashed down by human activities in just a few decades. It is a very sad state of affairs that hopefully we can turn around before it is too late.” — Ken Caldeira of Stanford University.
“One trillion dollars. That’s the economic impact a new UN study found resulting from the world’s oceans becoming 170 percent more acidic by 2100 under an inexorable and ongoing human carbon emission.
“It’s a rapidly ramping acidity that is being driven by an ever-rising level of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere. An emission that is already setting the stage for a first wave of mass extinction in the world ocean — starting now and hitting high gear once global CO2 levels reach about 500 parts per million (this year, global CO2 levels topped off at 401 parts per million and under current and planned emissions are likely to hit 500 ppm within about 30 years).
“At issue is the vulnerability of coral reefs and many other species with calcareous skeletons and shells to rapid acidification. In the deep geological past, we’ve seen mass extinctions in many of these species due to rapid rises in ocean acidity. Events such as the Permian and PETM extinctions all showed terrible losses of species due to ocean acidification alone.
“But the pace at which humans are increasing ocean acidification has never been seen before in the geological record. So the blow that is coming to many of the animals we rely on is worse than anything that happened in Earth’s past.
“(Ocean acidification and related impacts to coral reefs through 2050 [500 ppm CO2]. Image source: Threat to Coral Reefs From Ocean Acidification.)”
Read more . . . .
As pointed out before, CO2 emissions do more than affect the atmosphere.
Drawing from NOAA PMEL Carbon Program
“When seawater absorbs carbon dioxide (CO2), chemical reactions cut seawater pH, carbonate ion concentration, and saturation states of biologically important calcium carbonate minerals. Calcium carbonate minerals are the building blocks for the skeletons and shells of many marine organisms. In areas where most life now congregates in the ocean, the seawater is supersaturated with calcium carbonate minerals. This means there are abundant building blocks for organisms to build their skeletons and shells. However, continued ocean acidification is causing many parts of the ocean to become unsaturated and some organisms will have difficulty producing and maintaining their shells” (NOAA).
“The skeleton hand of ocean acidification has been found at work near one of Australia’s most exotic tropical destinations, Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef.
“Scientists surveying a reef flat just south of the resort island, off Cooktown, have measured a near 40 per cent calcium carbonate decline.”
Read more at “The Age.”
Too much acid in the ocean is bad news for sea life. Acid eats away at calcium carbonate, the primary ingredient of shells and skeletons that many ocean animals depend on for survival. The shell pictured here is a victim of this process.
“Since the start of the industrial revolution, the ocean has silently absorbed roughly 30% of the carbon dioxide that people generate through industry and agriculture. Now ocean chemistry of the seawater is rapidly changing in a process known as ocean acidification. These changes in seawater chemistry affect animal growth, survival and behavior, and they are depleting the ocean of calcium carbonate, a nutrient vital for shellfish to build shells. Marine organisms with calcium carbonate shells or skeletons – such as corals, oysters, clams, and mussels – can be affected by small changes in acidity. That’s important, because shelled organisms are essential throughout the marine food chain. They are also vital to our economy, as shellfish hatcheries on the brink of collapse just a few years ago, struggle to adapt.
“The U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System, or IOOS, is helping mitigate economic impacts with real-time data that signal the approach of acidified seawater one to two days before it arrives. An early warning helps hatchery managers take action – such as shutting off intake valves or treating the water – to save crops.
“Ocean acidification has the potential to fundamentally change the ocean, its habitats, food webs and marine life. The implications of this sea change to our environment and our economy are endless, and the current rate of change of ocean acidification is faster than any time on record. We need to better understand what is happening so we can develop tools to help slow the rate of change. Efforts like IOOS and NOAA’s Ocean Acidification Program will help our nation begin to understand how to address this problem on a global scale and help reverse it.”