Human activities, such as burning fossil fuels, are playing an important role in the rising levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the Earth's atmosphere1. The oceans may store a large portion of CO2 that we are releasing into the atmosphere, with up to 40% already taken up by the oceans. Although this absorption helps to offset some of the greenhouse effect of atmospheric CO2, it also contributes to ocean acidification, or a fall in the pH of sea water. The historical global mean pH of oceanic sea water is about 8.2, and this has already declined by 0.1 pH units (a 30% increase in H+ concentration) and is predicted to reach pH ~7.7 by the end of the century if current rates of fossil fuel use continue, leading to an atmospheric CO2 level of 800 p.p.m.1,2. Even this extreme potential fall in pH would still leave seawater above the neutral point (pH 7.0), so technically it is more accurate to say that the ocean is becoming less alkaline, rather than truly acidic (i.e. below pH 7.0). However, the magnitude is perhaps less important than the speed of pH change which is occurring faster than at any time during the previous 20 million years. Over this time, the average ocean pH has probably never fallen below pH 8.02,3. It is only during the last decade that the importance of ocean acidification has come to the forefront of concerns for scientists1,2. Consequences of these changes in global CO2 production are predicted to include elevated global temperatures, rising sea levels, more unpredictable and extreme weather patterns, and shifts in ecosystems1. In order to more fully understand the implications of ocean acidification, teams of researchers, including fisheries scientists, physiologists, geologists, oceanographers, chemists and climate modellers, are working to refine current understanding of the ocean carbon cycle.
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Feature| June 01 2011
A fishy tale: A missing part of the inorganic ocean carbon cycle
Rod W. Wilson ;
Erin E. Reardon ;
Biochem (Lond) (2011) 33 (3): 30–34.
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Rod W. Wilson, Erin E. Reardon, Christopher T. Perry; A fishy tale: A missing part of the inorganic ocean carbon cycle. Biochem (Lond) 1 June 2011; 33 (3): 30–34. doi: https://doi.org/10.1042/BIO03303030
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