Saturday, May 24, 2008

North America's Pacific coast becoming more acidic

Federal scientists were very surprised with the latest findings that North America's Pacific coast are becoming more acidic. Acidification levels are so high that scientists did not expect to see this extent of ocean acidification until the middle to the end of the century as the study co-author Chris Sabine said. Large section of North American continental shelf is impacted by ocean acidification and this will bring negative impact to marine ecosystems.

This is mainly the result of global warming because ocean water is becoming more corrosive as the water absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Increased carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are in connection with the burning of the fossil fuels, process that increased dramatically in the last 50 years.

Rich marine life will have tough time adapting to this new change in ocean chemistry, in particular organisms with calcium carbonate shells, such as corals, mussels, mollusks, and small creatures in the early stages of the food chain. However, the negative impact probably won't stop on marine life, and NOAA assistant administrator Richard Spinrad predicts how "acidification of the Earth’s ocean water could have far-reaching impacts on the health of our near-shore environment, and on the sustainability of ecosystems that support human populations".

Ocean acidification - Great threat to marine ecosystems

The team has gathered data from 13 survey lines dropped last summer and stretching from the waters of central Canada to northern Mexico. They measured pH levels in seawater to detect acidification, and found lower levels were much closer to the surface than researchers had predicted. Future predictions are everything but optimistic, and scientists believe that ever-increasing levels of carbon dioxide will cause even bigger impact to ocean acidification.

The most symbolic words were said by Burke Hales, an associate professor at Oregon State University who said: "The coastal ocean acidification train has left the station, and there is not much we can do to derail it."

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