All Sea Life Will be Affected by More Acidic Oceans

Tuesday, October 24, 2017 - 12:48

Carbon dioxide emissions from modern society are making the oceans more acidic and will be affected all sea life.

The eight-year study from more than 250 scientists finds that infant sea creatures will be especially harmed. This means the number of baby cod growing to adulthood could fall to a quarter or even a 12th of today's numbers, the researchers suggest, BBC reports.

The assessment comes from the BIOACID project which is led from Germany. Some creatures may benefit directly from the chemical changes - but even these could still be adversely affected indirectly by shifts in the whole food web, the Biological Impacts of Ocean Acidification report authors say.

Ocean acidification is happening because as CO2 from fossil fuels dissolves in seawater, it produces carbonic acid and this lowers the pH of the water. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the average pH of global ocean surface waters have fallen from pH 8.2 to 8.1. This represents an increase in acidity of about 26%.

The study's lead author is Prof Ulf Riebesell from the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel. He is a world authority on the topic and has typically communicated cautiously about the effects of acidification.

He told BBC News: "Acidification affects marine life across all groups, although to different degrees. Warm-water corals are generally more sensitive than cold-water corals. Clams and snails are more sensitive than crustaceans.”

"And we found that early life stages are generally more affected than adult organisms. But even if an organism isn't directly harmed by acidification it may be affected indirectly through changes in its habitat or changes in the food web. At the end of the day, these changes will affect the many services the ocean provides to us."

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