Carbon doesn’t ‘sink’

Oceans are a reliable carbon sink in scientists’ climate change models because they absorb so much of the atmosphere’s excess carbon dioxide. But this good news for climate change is bad news for ocean life:  dissolved carbon is making the oceans more acidic, which threatens the balance of the marine food chain.

That dissolved carbon (and a slew of other nutrients) is acidifying our waters is not new news. Last week, however, an international consortium of 155 scientists issued a report raising an alarm about the speed with which the oceans’ pH levels are falling.

It’s estimated that the oceans absorb about 25 percent of human carbon dioxide emissions. As the gas dissolves in the oceans, it produces carbonic acid. The group says the acidity of ocean surface waters has increased by 30 percent since the 17th century.

The report summarizes conference proceedings from a symposium held in Monaco last October. Called the Monaco Declaration, the report said that increasing acidity is interfering with the growth and health of shellfish and eating away at coral reefs, processes that would eventually harm marine food webs.

Read more in the New York Times and BBC articles.

Photo credit:  BBC

Author: Christine Buckley

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