Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Troubling Signs of Environmental Change in Washington's Coastal Waters


The Seattle Times published a fascinating article this week on some of the consequences of ocean acidification. The Ocean is capable of absorbing huge amounts of CO2 while this slows climate change by removing greenhouse gases from the atomosphere it alters the chemistry of the ocean, shifting the pH lower, or slightly more acidic. While the problem is only beginning to be understood it is already having some alarming consequences for marine life in the North Pacific. The Times article focused primarily on the impacts more acidic water is having on Washington's shellfish industry. Many marine organisms make their shells or exoskeletons out of calcium carbonate, which will dissolve even with moderate increases in the acidity of the water. Oyster growers in Willapa bay have now had 6 consecutive years of spawning failure and scientists believe the more acidic sea water is to blame.

As atmospheric CO2 levels rise, ocean acidity will increase and may have severely detrimental consequences for marine ecosystems. Ocean acidification is bad news for salmon. Pteropods and other zooplankton which make up an essential food source for juvenile salmon have calcium carbonate shells and increased acidity may dramatically reduce their abundance. More information in the article here:

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2012502655_acidification01.html

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