Tuesday, June 9, 2009

More Effects from Global Warming: Acidity in the Oceans Killing Wildlife

As the increased carbon emissions in our atmosphere are absorbed by the oceans, the resultant carbonic acid is destroying the calcium carbonate in the seawater which stands at the beginning of many food chains, according to testimony at a hearing before the oceans subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee. The outlook is bleak:

In Washington state, oysters in some areas haven't reproduced for four years, and preliminary evidence suggests that the increasing acidity of the ocean could be the cause. In the Gulf of Mexico, falling oxygen levels in the water have forced shrimp to migrate elsewhere.

Though two marine-derived drugs, one for treating cancer and the other for pain control, are on the market and 25 others are under development, the fungus growing on seaweed, bacteria in deep sea mud and sea fans that could produce life-saving medicines are under assault from changing the ocean conditions.

Ocean acidification or diseases that thrive in acidified, oxygen-depleted seawater could be responsible for oysters not reproducing in Washington state, said Brad Warren, who oversees the ocean health and acidification program of the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership in Seattle. A federal study found that two-thirds of larval blue crabs died when exposed to acidity levels like those currently measured off the West Coast, he said.

Federal studies also found acidity levels in the North Pacific and off Alaska are unusually high compared to other ocean regions. The high acidity is already taking a toll of such tiny species as pteropods, which are an important food for salmon and other fish.

In the Gulf of Mexico , Alexandra Cousteau said, the runoff down the Mississippi River from farms in the Midwest has created a dead zone the size of New Jersey where few species can survive. Wetlands in Louisiana are disappearing at the rate of 33 football fields a day as hurricanes grow in strength and frequency because of climate change, she said.

What do we get from our foot-dragging politicians in the face of this ever-growing mass of evidence that we have a serious problem in need of action? Joe Barton scoffing at plate tectonics, and John Boehner claiming scientific findings on carbon emissions are comical. There is apparently no science these guys aren't willing to bastardize to keep their constituents happily in denial and continue to do nothing. They will take us all down with then if we let them.


parakeet said...

"More Effects from Global Warming: Acidity in the Oceans Killing Wildlife"

May I suggest that you retitle your post as:

"More Effects from Pollution: Acidity in the Oceans Killing Wildlife"

ScienceAvenger said...

Why would I do that when the article was about the effects of global warming, not pollution? Seriously, the purpose of the comments section is not to tell me how you wish I had titled something, or what you wish I had written about, and future such comments will be flushed without comment.

parakeet said...

I could've reworded my point in a different way. I read the article in the following way:

"As GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS INCREASE, billions of tons of carbon dioxide from smokestacks and vehicle tailpipes are absorbed by the oceans. The result is carbonic acid, which dilutes the "rich soup" of calcium carbonate in the seawater that many species, especially on the low end of the food chain, thrive in, Warren said."

"In Washington state, oysters in some areas haven't reproduced for four years, and preliminary evidence suggests that the increasing ACIDITY of the ocean could be the cause."

Capitals added by me.

Now can you see why I saw the problem being one of pollution?

Warming is ANOTHER problem of this pollution.

Maybe I should've just criticized Yahoo for the title THEY chose.

Troublesome Frog said...

I understand the quibble, since this appears to be a case of global warming and ocean acidification having a common cause rather than one causing the other.

As an aquarium plant guy, I use a pressurized CO2 cylinder to encourage plant growth. The way to regulate the amount of dissolved CO2 in the system is to measure the pH.

There's a very direct relationship between the water's pH, hardness and CO2 content. There's a good discussion of it here. While it's possible to wriggle around and claim that CO2 isn't the cause of global warming, there's really no argument that increased CO2 in the oceans will tweak their pH. Not good.