Acidification happens when the ocean turns to be more and more acidic. It’s a form of ocean degradation that will cause the demise of many marine creatures. There’s no denying that humans have caused most of the damage. Now the oceans are undergoing a negative change in their natural characteristics.
When the acidifications continues to get worse, the oceans will become inhabitable. This article will explain about the Levels of Ocean Acidification. We will also discuss the sources, the impacts and the preventive measures that people can take to slow down the process.
Read more: Interesting Facts of Ocean Acidification
The Causes of Ocean Acidification
There are several contributing factors that make acidification to become worse. Throughout the years, human activities hold the highest responsibility for ruining the oceans. Below are a number of reasons why there is a low chance for acidification to stop anytime soon:
- Carbon Dioxide
- Burning fossil fuels
- Plastic wastes
- Chemical/nuclear wastes
- Cutting down trees
- Toxic algal blooms
- Fertiliser runoffs from agriculture
- Global warming
Also read: Effects of Nuclear Waste on the Ocean
The Acid Level of the Ocean
The levels of ocean acidification can be measured with the pH measurement. pH 0 is the most acidic while pH 14 is the most basic. Neutrality level is put on the level 7, which includes the pure water that we drink every day.
For many years, the acid level of the ocean has maintained a constant measurement, which is around 8.2. What keeps the number to stay the same lies in the working of nature. The acidic elements released by surrounding volcanoes are balanced out by the base nature of rocks that break down.
However, when the industrialisation era begins for humans, the ocean experiences a huge shift. The pH level has dropped to 8.1. It is still classified as basic though the number has dropped. It has also become a huge concern for scientists.
What can change it to be more acidic is how much hydrogen ions the water contains. Being acidic means that there are more Hydrogen ions being released within the water.
Find out more: Characteristics of Ocean Environment
Scientists are predicting that at the rate on which the world is developing, the pH level is expected to fall up to 0.4. Looking at the numbers might seem easy but the effects are real. A 1 pH point fall will make the ocean become 10 times more acidic than usual.
If the number continues to fall, then the ocean water will become 100 times more acidic.
As the global climate rapidly changes, the ocean water will have poorer quality. Carbon dioxide is a culprit too and it’s one of the biggest factors for altering the levels of ocean acid. In a century or so, the ocean would become the most acidic in comparison to how it was millions of years ago.
Read also: Social Impacts of Ocean Acidification
The Most Acidic Oceans
According to studies, the Indian Ocean has a high acidity level than the average oceans. The most acidic one is the Bering Strait. It becomes particularly acidic when the winter season comes around.
Apparently, the oceans that are located in colder regions experience acidification that the oceans in warmer regions. As an example, the Antartic Ocean continues to show an increasing rate of acidification every year.
The acidification of oceans will begin to get worse when the year hits 2020. Calcium carbonate production starts to decrease significantly. In 2060, marine creatures will begin to find it very difficult to live in the oceans. When year 2100 comes, most species will begin to become endangered as surviving is almost impossible. The acidity is too much for marine creatures to thrive.
The Harmful Effects of Ocean Acidification
Ocean acidification causes many devastations. Here are some of the most concerning ones:
1. Coral Bleaching
Corals are a vulnerable ecosystem in the oceans. They need a particular kind of habitat to flourish. For the past years, there have been numerous reports of coral bleaching. The huge amount is not a coincidence. It is related to the high levels of acidification that is currently happening in the ocean water.
2. Reducing Fish Population
Fish population will greatly decrease. With lack of food and reduced habitat, fish will find it hard to survive. This will affect the economy and food security for humans. As for the ocean, it will lose its biodiversity when the majority its species die out.
3. Disrupted Shell Formation
Shellfish cannot grow strong shells if the ocean water contains too many acidic elements. The shells will in fact turn thinner and softer. What this means for the shellfish is that they will have lesser rate of survival. Their shells are crucial to protect themselves from predators
4. Destroying the Food Web
When certain species die because of the increasing acidification, the food web will suffer too. Marine species depend on each other so that they continue to survive. The deep sea marine creatures will also find it hard to live in the ocean. They’ll have less supply of food that can keep them alive.
Many marine creatures will not be able to handle extreme acidic conditions. For instance, trouts begin to die at pH 6. Meanwhile, fish cannot live at all when the pH level hits 4. Previous marine fossil records have also shown that in the past, acidification has caused a mass extinction to happen.
Read more: Endangered Animals in the Ocean
What Can We Do?
Losing hope won’t help in improving the condition of the oceans. We can start off by raising more awareness about the current state of the oceans and all the harms that we’re doing. As more people are involved, governments can be urged to have stronger policies for protecting the oceans.
Also, we should start to be more conscious of our actions and their impacts to the environment. Only by that can we start to slow down the acidification process.
Also read: Prevention of Ocean Acidification
We have been relying on the oceans for centuries to absorb most of the world’s pollutants. It is now our job to decrease the harm that we’re doing to the oceans. Without oceans, the world will lose a portion of its valuable source of life. No healthy oceans will mean that the future is under threat too.