Nov 24 2013

Time to Take Ocean Acidification Seriously?

Saving Seafood     The Economist Logo
November 22, 2013 — HUMANS, being a terrestrial species, are pleased to call their home “Earth”. A more honest name might be “Sea”, as more than seven-tenths of the planet’s surface is covered with salt water. Moreover, this water houses algae, bacteria (known as cyanobacteria) and plants that generate about half the oxygen in the atmosphere. And it also provides seafood—at least 15% of the protein eaten by 60% of the planet’s human population, an industry worth $218 billion a year. Its well-being is therefore of direct concern even to landlubbers.

That well-being, some fear, is under threat from the increasing amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a consequence of industrialisation. This concern is separate from anything caused by the role of CO2 as a climate-changing greenhouse gas. It is a result of the fact that CO2, when dissolved in water, creates an acid.

That matters, because many creatures which live in the ocean have shells or skeletons made of stuff that dissolves in acid. The more acidic the sea, the harder they have to work to keep their shells and skeletons intact. On the other hand, oceanic plants, cyanobacteria and algae, which use CO2 for photosynthesis, might rather like a world where more of that gas is dissolved in the water they live in—a gain, rather than a loss, to ocean productivity.

Read story from Saving Seafood here.
Read story from The Economist here.

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