Ocean acidification, another climate issue
When carbon dioxide dissolves into the ocean it reacts with the water releasing hydrogen ions to form carbonic acid making the ocean acidic.
Having more carbon dioxide in the water means that the ocean becomes more acidic as carbon emissions increase.
Ocean acidification limits the availability of carbonate ions for the formation of calcium carbonate shells and skeletons .
Ocean acidification limits the availability of carbonate ions for the formation of calcium carbonate shells and skeletons.
Under more acidic conditions, carbonates are more likely to bind with hydrogen ions than calcium. This means that the formation of calcium carbonate skeletons becomes much more difficult.
This has resulted in a decline in the average pH from 8.2 to 8.1 in the ocean. This drop means that there has been a 30 percent increase in hydrogen concentration.
The waters along the Pacific northwest up well to the ocean surface from the deep.
The last time this deep water might have reached the surface was between 30 – 50 years ago and would therefore reflect the acidic ocean or carbon dioxide chemistry.
This is startling considering how more carbon co2 has been absorbed between then and now. Ocean acidification can limit coral growth and in some cases erode the fine structures.
To gain some insight into what the future of coral reefs might look like, scientists explored coral reefs growing in natural volcanic seeps in Papua Guinea where co2 bubbles through the water.
What scientists saw was a transition from the finely branching species of corals common to the area to a reef dominant in boulder and dome-shaped corals with much denser skeletons.
Finer branching corals are more sensitive to eroding acid and therefore the reef lost the structural complexity that formed intricate spaces for organisms to utilize.
Depending on the rate of acidification, some organisms may be able to adapt but many organisms are likely to become extinct.