Effects of Carbon Dioxide in the Seas
Several decades ago, in the atmosphere carbon dioxide levels did not match emissions caused by fossil fuel burning. The ocean contains 50 times more carbon than the air. Christopher Sabine states, “The ultimate take home message for this is whether we live 1,000 yards from the beach or a 1,000 miles from the shore, we are all having a profound impact on the global ocean and the creatures that live there.” (Sabine 2012). In this paper, I’m going to describe the rising atmospheric carbon dioxide, the impact of rising CO2 on the ocean, and suggesting things that we can do to help.
Before the industrial revolution, atmospheric CO2 was steady for at least 1,000 years.The anthropogenic CO2 emissions of 2010 resulted in total deforestation of about 28,000 miles each year of an area. That is about the size of Panama! Only about half of the CO2 we release stays in the atmosphere. 26% goes into the land. The plants breathe carbon dioxide and release oxygen while the animals breathe oxygen and release carbon dioxide.
24% go into the oceans. Carbon is a natural component in our life cycle. The ocean used to be a source of CO2 for the air, now their taking more CO2 than their absorbing. This leaves consequences for the purpose of the ocean. CO2 is an acid gas so the addition of 22 million tons of carbon dioxide to the ocean everyday is acidifying the seawater…we call this process “ocean acidification.”
There are many concerns for marine organisms and ecosystems. These concerns include: reduced calcification rates, increased photosynthesis and nitrogen fixation, reduced growth, production, and life span of adults juveniles and larvae, reduced tolerance to other environmental fluctuations, and significant shifts in key nutrient and trace element speciation. This creates changes to fitness and survival, species biogeography, key biochemical cycles, and food webs. It also creates reduced sounds absorption, homing ability, and recruitment and settlement.
There is a predicted effect on climate change on pink salmon growth. 10% increase in water temperature leads to 3% drop in mature salmon body weight (physiological effect). 10% decrease in pteropod production leads to 20% drop in mature salmon body weight (prey limitation). Global emissions since 2000-2008 growth rate of fossil fuel emissions rate is at 3.4% per year. The global recession resulted in a drop of fossil fuel emissions.
Commercial oyster hatcheries are a $100 million industry (3000 jobs). But there has been no natural recruitment of oysters in Washington State for the last seven years. Carbon dioxide is causing osysters to be unable to reproduce. People are losing their jobs. Pacific oysters haven’t successfully reproduced in the wild since 2004. Natural processes can accelerate acidification in coastal waters.
“Carbon dioxide emissions are making the oceans more acidic, imperling the gwth and reproduction species from plankton to squid.” (2010). “Even small increases in seawater CO2 concentration can cause rapid diffusion into the bodies of water-breathing animals. Once inside, CO2 reacts with internal fluids, creating hydrogen ions, making the bodily fluids or tissue more acidic. Species employ various mechanisms to balance their internal pH. These actions include producing negative ions such as bicarbonate that soak up, or buffer, the extra hydrogen ions; pumping ions in and out of cells and intercellular spaces; and reducing metabolism to absorb fewer ions and “wait out” the period of high H+ concentration. But none of these mechanisms is meant to handle a sustained drop in pH. As an organism struggles to regain n acid-base balance, it sacrifices energy. Basic life functions such as synthesizing protein and maintaining a strong immune system can also become compromised.” (2010). Researcher, Samuel Dupont, designed an experiment to test this. He exposed larvae of a temperate brittlestar a relative of the common sea star- tp pH reduced by 0.2 to 0.4 unit. This experiment resulted in abnormal development, and less than 0.1 percent lived more than eight days. As you can see, ocean acidification can simply be the death of some sea creatures.
Another experiment was done similar to the previous one. The science for sustainability organization raised larvae from the staghorn coral Acropora millepora to the point where they settle on a reef, placing them in tanks, then exposing them to air bubbles with levels of co2 of 750-1000 parts per millions. This projected to be the world’s atmospheric co2 content by the end of this century, if humanity fails to cut its carbon emissions. Back then, it was impossible to look into every gene. However, through advances in technology, scientists are able to detect each one. “‘Much to our surprise we found the rising acidity had little effect on the production of ion transport proteins that are responsible for circulating and depositing the calcium carbonate within the coral cells to form its skeleton. ‘But equally surprising were the massive changes we observed in the expression of coral genes involved in the creating the framework required for skeleton formation: some were increased and some decreased. ‘Overall it means that a more acidic ocean messes with the skeleton formation process in young corals in disturbing, but highly complex, ways. ” (2012).
What can we do to help?conserve resources: industrial, transportation-improve fuel efficiency. 28% emissions are due to this, residential-41% of total emissions are for electric powers, commercial. We can save half of our CO2 by changing our practices by conserving resources. The author of Turning The Tide To Save Ocean explains the efforts that are already under way to protect the seas. It states, “Unilever, which controls 20% of the whitefish market in Europe and the U.S., has agreed to buy only fish caught and produced in an environmentally sustainable manner. Volunteers in the Philippines, Thailand, India, and Ecuador are replanting mangrove areas to repair earlier damage from shrimp farming. In northern Sulawesi, Indonesia, citizens have cleared coral reefs of harmful invasive species. The U.S. and Canada have banned oil drilling on large portions of their continental shelves.” (2000). The author explains that we need to come together and provide more resources to protect the ocean. There are many ways to do this, most in which is up to the government. The Constitution of the Oceans provides lots of protection and support for the ocean. The author states, “Although 130 nations have ratified it, the U.S. is one of eight countries worldwide that still has not.” (2000). So, that is something that should be considered. Paying for costs of management and donating and volunteering in nonprofit organizations can also go a long ways. Also, advances in technology can also help create strategies to solve the issues we face. The technology forms can help us better understand the ocean and, initially, help us develop more ways of protecting it.
As you can see, ocean acidification is becoming a more negative thing. As the levels of acidity continue to decrease, it will become more difficult for many organisms (corals, plankton, clams, oysters, sea urchins, etc.) to reproduce, or even to survive. That being said, a lot of people are at risk for losing their jobs. People that rely on seafood at their main source of protein will lose food security. The rising levels of carbon dioxide can negatively impact many species. When the species absorbs large amounts of CO2, it affects their growth and reproduction rate. Many, in which, don’t live much longer after the fact. The most efficient way to solve this issue is to come together and conserve our resources so that we can reduce pollution and release less levels of carbon dioxide into the air, and the ocean. Another way is to create advances in technology so that we can better understand these problems at hand and develop ways to overcome these challenges.
Detailed study shows CO2 ‘messing with coral skeletons’. (2012, April 12). ECOC Science For Sustainability.
Hardt, M. J. (2010, August). Threatening Ocean Life from the Inside Out. Scientific American, 303(2).
Sabine, C. (2018, May 7). Christopher Sabine at Nobel Conference 48. Speech presented at Christopher Sabine at Nobel Conference 48 in Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, Minnesota.
Turning the Tide to Save Oceans. (2000, April). USA Today Magazine, 128(2659), 12-14.
Effects of Carbon Dioxide in the Seas