Scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany established that the rate of ocean acidification due to increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere presents a serious thread to aquatic ecosystems.
The speed of change in oceans acidity was found to be nearly ten times greater than ever before.
When the oceans absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, the levels of pH drop, causing a change in the alkaline nature of the waters. Although this process of absorption was recently found to slow down climate change, the influence acidification has on the marine life is enormous. This is especially the case with species that form their shells using the calcium carbonate in water, the substance responsible for the slightly high pH.
Hans Poertner, professor of marine biology, and his team based their research on five components of the marine ecosystems- corals, echinoderms, molluscs, crustaceans and fish. Comparing the effects of acidification with prehistoric data, the authors established that corals, molluscs and crustaceans are the worst affected. The authors noted that history is about to repeat itself, stating the example of the extinction of Permian Triassic invertebrate, which occurred 250 million years ago, again due to high carbon dioxide levels.
Unfortunately, the team did not look into plants and plankton, but the authors suggest that this is definitely what should be studied next.
The study published in the latest issue of Nature Climate Change, however, emphasizes on the fact that there is still time for us to react and prevent an environmental catastrophe by cutting down the emissions. The acidification of the oceans is still in an early stage, and it is only up to us not to allow it to accelerate its influence on ocean ecosystems.