New Study Suggests Current Laws Can Help Local Communities Ease Hot Spots of Ocean Acidification

Many coastal areas have acidic "hot spots" caused by local problems that can be mitigated with current laws.Many experts warn of rapidly increasing ocean acidification as a global issue in need of urgent action. While carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels drives the ongoing alteration in ocean chemistry on a global scale, a new study just published in the journal Science says coastal communities don’t need to wait for global solution to address the problem.

The report was authored by analysts and scientists from Standford University’s Center for Ocean Solutions, the EPA and NOAA. Their research suggests that many coastal areas become acidic “hot spots” through local problems like erosion, runoff pollution from cities and agricultural areas, poor land-use planning, and localized air pollution.

Lead author Ryan Kelly says that looking at the problem of ocean acidification only from the perspective of global carbon emissions is missing the whole picture of the problem:

“It looks like up to half of the stressors that are driving local hot spots can be locally derived,” said Kelly. “CO2 is a global problem, but it only may be half of the story.”

Staying within budget

Coastal waters stay healthy by staying within their “pH budget,” and often times that budget is exceeded by local stresses which can be alleviated through current laws and regulations.

“Since an acidification hotspot can negatively impact a community, its causes need to be tackled quickly,” said Melissa Foley of the Center for Ocean Solutions. “We identified practical steps communities can take today to counter local sources of acidity.”

The remedies available to coastal communities include compliance with sections of the Clean Water Act requiring states to prevent polluted runoff from reaching local streams, bays, and oceans, and limiting soil erosion to stop fertilizer from leaching into waterways, a source of acidification.

Other tactics suggested in the study for combating local hot spots are adoption of sustainable land-use polices limiting urban sprawl and enforcing limits on nitrogen oxide and sulfur oxide emissions, as stipulated in the Clean Air Act.

Source and further reading:

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Thomas Schueneman
Thomas Schueneman
Tom is the founder and managing editor of and the PlanetWatch Group. His work appears in Triple Pundit, Slate, Cleantechnia, Planetsave, Earth911, and several other sustainability-focused publications. Tom is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists.

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