This acceleration has resulted in increased temperatures, rising sea levels, loss of biodiversity, and ocean acidification (OA). Since the industrial revolution the planet has been subjected to immense quantities of pollution. One of these pollutants is carbon dioxide released by burning fossil fuels. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas well known for contributing to temperature increases, but it is also the primary cause of OA. OA is the reduction in the ph of the ocean over time resulting in a more acidic environment. When carbon dioxide is absorbed by the ocean it reacts with seawater to form carbonic acid.
Elevated levels of carbonic acid create a toxic living environment and can inhibit shell growth for many species. Many such species support the base of the ocean’s food chains. Weakening this base can have devastating consequences not only for ocean ecosystems, but also human populations reliant on those ecosystems for food sources and economic well being.
There are numerous species of shellfish, corals, fish, and marine mammals that are endangered due to acidification. Hard shell mollusks and corals for example have exoskeletons formed with calcium carbonate which dissolves in acidic environments. The fluctuation of carbonic acid makes shell growth harder for these organisms. This requires more of the organism’s energy to be put toward shell growth leaving less available for reproduction, growth, and reaction to stress. This puts these organisms and their populations at risk leaving associated ecosystems and food chains vulnerable. If these important species die off then many other species will become weakened creating a snowball effect. Over time OA can cause a complete collapse of ocean ecosystems and food chains.
The ocean is an important food source for many people around the globe and is in fact the primary food source for some. On average humans consume 15-16 pounds of seafood each year. Because OA can have devastating effects on marine ecosystems it has the potential to cause a large shortage in food supply for areas heavily reliant on the ocean as a food source. This problem may force communities to search for alternate food supplies which may not be available. Not only does OA have the potential to adversely affect food supply but it can also result in economic hardships.
As the fishing and marine harvesting industries are negatively impacted by OA jobs will be lost. These industries are important economic components of local and global economies. For example as OA increases the aquatic harvesting economy will be in jeopardy. According to oceanscientist.org, “In the American Pacific Northwest, the US $270 M per year shellfish industry has experienced major losses of larval shellfish, which are susceptible to die because they cannot form shells under high acidity. Some shellfish farmers have even packed up and left for more favorable conditions elsewhere”.
Tourism can also be negatively impacted by OA. Areas with coral reef die offs and dead zones resulting from OA become less desirable places to visit. Less people will visit certain areas previously reliant on tourism resulting in loss of revenue and jobs. For example, the great barrier reef is a beautiful world renown reef, but with less thriving marie wildlife less tourist would be interested in visiting this area and the tourism economy would be adversely affected.
Scientist have gone to numerous reefs around the world collecting coral reef sperm. They do this as a precaution in the event of a massive die off of reefs. In the case of such a deadly event, scientists will be able to release the sperm restarting the coral reefs life in different areas. Scientists have stated that with the current trajectory the oceans could be lifeless in 60 years. If society as a whole does not contribute to fixing this problem our ocean ecosystems may be dying in the near future. There are some simple things that can be done to prevent this ominous prediction. There is a heavy reliance of fossil fuels for energy and manufacturing.
By using solar and other sustainable energy sources much less carbon dioxide will be released into the atmosphere thereby reducing the potential for OA. On a smaller scale even driving less or using products without plastic packaging has its benefits. There are many organizations doing their best to raise awareness about this important problem. Congress has raised its budget for ocean acidification from six million to ten million according to . This will allow for proper investments towards helping with this problem According to the NRDC (National Resources Defense Council). There have been a few acts put in place by Congress to reduce OA. The United States Congress in recent years have agreed to the Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Act to further Knowledge. It was used to help fund NOAA’s research and to add more funding for OA prevention. The best way forward to help overcome the problem of OA is by spreading the word and exposing the problem at hand.The more people that know about the problem the more that can be done to prevent it.
OA is a serious problem on the rise in our oceans. If considerable effort is not put into stopping this problem then the diverse life filled oceans will be lost. The use of fossils fuels and the associated release of carbon dioxide is the main contributing factor for the acidification of the ocean. As carbon dioxide dissolves in seawater it creates carbonic acid which is harmful to sea life. This can result in oceanic desserts and collapse of ocean ecosystems. Less food in the food chain can have a ripple effect that could lead to extinctions of numerous species. This could adversely affect human communities around the globe. Ocean ecosystems are an important food source and for local and global economies. The scientific community, energy producers, industry, and politicians have made efforts guard against OA and to reduce the output of carbon dioxide. If humans reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emissions our beautiful oceans may still have a chance.
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