Ocean Acidification! What it is, and why should we all care?

By Klaus Bachhuber

Photo by Rose Elena on Unsplash

At this point its safe to say that everyone has heard of Climate Change, the changing of our regional climate patterns thanks to all our use fossil fuels. While climate change has dominated environmental news in recent years, our large amount of carbon use is causing another equally as devastating problem, ocean acidification. Since the creation of our lovely planet, the Ocean has always been a large carbon sink and naturally has been one of the largest carbon reservoirs on the planet. However, as we continue to disrupt the carbon cycle and emit excess carbon into the atmosphere, more and more of it is ending up in the oceans. Why is this a problem one might ask? Well the ocean has a very particular PH (8.1) to be exact, that makes it an ideal place to live for the thousands of marine species we all know and love. This PH is very sensitive and small changes can have huge effects on the entire ecosystem and sadly the large increase of carbon in the ocean is increasing the waters PH. This increase in acidity has devastating effects that will reach everyone no matter where they live.

Photo from the Plymouth Marine Laboratory

 A more acidic ocean is destructive for many organisms that we as humans rely on for food, in particular crustaceans. The more acidic ocean makes it harder for hard shelled organisms to develop and has caused large decreases in organisms like clams and mussels. Also, ocean acidification hurts coral reefs as their development is also stunted by a more acidic environment. Coral reefs are key ecosystems for millions of people worldwide who rely on the reefs as a vital food source. With reef and overall ocean health declining, millions of people are at risk of food scarcity in the coming years. This risk could potentially turn into a global food crisis that has never been seen. However, not all hope is lost! Like with climate change, steps to reduce overall carbon use and your individual carbon footprint can go a long way to preserving the oceans and the millions of people whose lives depend on them!

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