Researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Seattle have released studies showing that waters that only a century ago were not corrosive can now dissolve shells.
It’s been known for years that at a certain depth water becomes corrosive from the acidification caused by rotting organic material floating down from the surface. But scientist now fear that rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere has increased acidity at the ocean’s surface. The NOAA study shows a greater increase in acidity than expected and at shallower depths.
Lead NOAA scientist Dr. Richard Feely said
Our results show for the first time that a large section of the North American continental shelf is impacted by ocean acidification. Other continental shelf regions may also be impacted where anthropogenic (man-made) carbon dioxide-enriched water is being upwelled onto the shelf.
An increasingly acidic ocean surface will likely prove disastrous for coral reefs, disrupt the ocean food chain, and reduce the ability of plankton to absorb carbon, creating a positive feedback loop further accelerating climate change by eliminating a vital carbon sink.
The study has prompted an urgent call from scientists for more research and information to better understand the likely outcomes and consequences of increased CO2 on ocean ecosystems.