Oceans taking a bad acid trip

By Kelsey Par - Staff Reporter

Ocean acidification means less fish and less fish to eat, said a pair of researchers from the University of Washington School of Oceanography. 

During the last Science on the Sound event on March 4, Dr. Rick Keil, chemical oceanography professor, and graduate student Miranda Stach, discussed local and international examples of our changing oceans with an emphasis on ocean acidification. 

Ocean acidification is the continuous decrease of pH in the ocean, which is caused by the uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. 

Man-made activities such as the burning of oil, coal and gas, as well as deforestation, have caused an increase in the amount of carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere over the past several generations, Stach said. 

In order to maintain a healthy ecosystem and a natural order of ocean life, oceans require a specific level of pH. Acidity levels rise in oceans when high levels of CO2 are being absorbed, she said.  

"Ocean acidification is a very important matter and we should all be concerned about the amount of acidity in our waters," Dr. Keil said. 

The effects of ocean acidification are detrimental to the health of sea life, Dr. Keil said. 

For example, oysters, clams, sea urchins, plankton and coral are unable to calcify when acidity levels are too high and the shells of sea life disintegrate after 45 days of being in toxic water.

Also, the food web is interrupted due to the fish and sea life that become tainted and are unable to be consumed by other sea life. 

However, sea life are not the only ones affected by ocean acidification, Dr. Keil said.

Fish and sea life that are exposed to acidic waters become too toxic for human consumption. 

This causes a disruption to the local economy because of the lack of ability to fish. 

Many causes have been linked to ocean acidification, such as high concentrations of carbon dioxide; burning of fossil fuels; cement manufacturing; increased levels of carbon dioxide in the ocean and atmosphere; and loss of biodiversity, said Dr. Keil.

The many things people can do to prevent ocean acidification, include being mindful of the pollution they cause; walking, biking, and using public transportation; eating less meat and fish; using less water; composting wasted food; buying and eating locally; relying less on coal and fossil fuels, Stach said.

Ocean acidification has increased greatly over the past several years. In order to reverse it, people as individuals and a community must work together to take these steps, Dr. Keil said.

"I believe we can fix many of the climates crisis' currently going on, but it would take hundreds of years to fix ocean acidity," Dr. Keil said. 

Oceans taking a bad acid trip

Ocean acidification means less fish and less fish to eat, said a pair of researchers from the UW School of Oceanography.

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