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November 11, 2008

New Oceana Report: Acid Test

BY: MattN

Corals, lobsters, and many other ocean creatures are unlikely to withstand the increasing acidity of the oceans brought on by global warming, according to a new report from Oceana.Our new report, “Acid Test,” examines the far-reaching consequences of the accumulation of heat-trapping gases, particularly carbon dioxide, in the world’s oceans. High levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in seawater deplete the carbonate that marine animals need for their shells and skeletons. Creatures that are at risk if trends continue include corals, commercial fish, including shrimp and lobster; and pteropods, or swimming sea snails, which are an important part of the base of polar and sub-polar food chains. We are calling for a reduction of CO2 emissions in industrialized countries by 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.The key findings of the report include:

  • The increased amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the oceans changes the movement of nutrients and chemicals and also affects the growth, reproduction and disease resistance of many species.
  • Impacts on corals and pteropods could have ripple effects through ecosystems, ultimately harming large ocean animals and commercial fisheries.
  • Cooler water holds higher levels of carbon dioxide and becomes more acidic. The current trend of carbon dioxide emissions would leave cold-water corals severely stressed by 2040, and two-thirds of them would be in a corrosive environment by the end of the century.

Check out an interview with the lead author of the report and a story in the Daily Climate. Additionally, two bills, H.R 4174 and S. 1581 that would fund research into the impacts and extent of ocean acidification have been held up in Congress — a delay, it seems, that our oceans and marine life can ill afford.