Wednesday

Ocean Acidification


Background:
  • Ocean acidification is a term which describes the changes in the chemistry of the world's oceans & seas.
  • This is a major effect of burning fossil fuels.
  • It is believed that changes to the oceans' pH levels will lead to adverse consequences on marine life and ecosystems.
History:
  • There has been a significant increase in atmospheric CO2 since the Industrial Revolution.
  • This increase is the result of burning fossil fuels & changes in land use.
  • Approximately half of this excess CO2 has been absorbed by the oceans, leading to a change in the surface water chemistry.
Ocean Acidification Consequences:
  • The increased CO2 in the water is converted to carbonic acid, producing a decrease in the pH of the ocean surface.
  • CO2 + H2O <==> HCO3- + H+
  • Associated with a decrease in the ocean pH is a reduction in carbonate ions which are required to make calcium carbonate, an important component of shells and animal skeletons.
  • This means that many organisms, such as coral, molluscs & plankton, are having difficulty maintaining or building their supportive structures.
  • Some experts have described this phenomenon as oceanic osteoporosis.
Important pH Numbers: (Source: NMEA)
  • Higher numbers indicate alkalis.
  • Lower numbers signify acidic liquids.
  • pH 13 - bleach
  • pH 10 - soap
  • pH 8.2 - pre-1750 oceans (average)
  • pH 8.1 - current oceans (average)
  • pH 7.8 - oceans in 2100 (projected average)
  • pH 7 - pure water
  • pH 3 - vinegar
  • pH 0 - battery acid
References:
The key effects of climate change [BBC News] 10th Marck 2009.


Image: Adapted from Talk by PCSGA (2008)
Tags: Acidification - Atmosphere Sink - Bleach - Calcium Carbonate - Carbon - Carbon Sink - Carbon Dioxide - Carbonate - Carbonic Acid - Fossil Fuel - Industrial Revolution - Land Use - Ocean - Ocean Sink - pH - Soap - Vinegar - Water
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