Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ocean Acidification Already Impacting Salish Sea

10 million scallops are dead at a shellfish farm on the east side of Vancouver Island, falling victim to rising levels of acidity in the Georgia Strait. Ocean acidification, which is caused by rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and the uptake of this CO2 into the oceans, is expected to have dramatic detrimental effects on our oceans in the 21st century. This is because many marine organisms, including shellfish, corals, and some zooplankton rely on calcium bicarbonate as a structural component to their shells or exoskeletons. As ocean acidity rises, it eventually reaches a level where these organisms can no longer build and maintain their skeletons.

This year, the pH  in the Georgia Strait, which is normally around 8.2 have been measured as high as 7.3 (lower values indicate higher acidity), resulting in catastrophic impacts on the regions aquaculture industry and potentially on a vast array of other marine organisms. While ocean acidification has not received the same level of media attention as human induced climate warming, its effects are just as insidious and it threatens to fundamentally undermine the ability of the oceans to sustain life. This is among the long list of reasons why a dramatic shift away from emissions intensive fossil fuel energy is absolutely vital or the future of our planet and the ecosystems which sustain human life.

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