Climate change problems: Acidic oceans | WWF

Climate change problems: Acidic oceans

After absorbing a large proportion of the carbon dioxide released by human activities, the oceans are becoming acidic.
The oceans soak up vast quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere. Indeed, if it weren’t for the oceans, the level of CO2 in the atmosphere would be much higher.

When CO2 dissovles into water, it forms carbonic acid. Ocean water is naturally alkaline, and has the capacity to absorb large amounts of CO2 without much change in acidity. But after absorbing nearly half the CO2 produced by human activities in the last 200 years, the oceans are finally becoming acidic.

The full effects of this are not known. However, researchers have suggested a number of damaging impacts.

For example, fish, squid, and other gilled marine animals may find it harder to "breathe" - the dissolved oxygen essential for their life becomes difficult to extract as water becomes more acidic.

And shellfish, crabs, lobsters, and corals may find it more difficult to build their calcium carbonate shells. One study predicts that the calcification rate of coral will decrease by 14-30% by 2050 as the oceans become more acidic, meaning that their rate of growth will be slowed. In some areas, calcium carbonate shells may even start to dissolve.

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Cayos Cochinos lobster, Honduras. Marine animals, such as lobsters, may find it difficult to build ... 
	© WWF Central America
Cayos Cochinos lobster, Honduras. Marine animals, such as lobsters, may find it difficult to build their calcium carbonate shells as more CO2 enters the oceans.
© WWF Central America

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