Is ocean acidification from human activities enough to impact marine ecosystems?

Saturday, May 25, 2024
By Sue Bin Park

Carbon dioxide emissions from human activities are acidifying oceans, disrupting marine ecosystems by dissolving the shells and skeletons of certain organisms.

The ocean absorbs at least 25% of the CO2 released in the atmosphere. CO2 reacts with ocean water (H2O) to form carbonic acid (H2CO3), which releases acidifying hydrogen ions (H+).

Ocean acidification is when the pH level of ocean water decreases due to an increase in hydrogen ions. 

Hydrogen ions bind to carbonate, making it more difficult for plankton, coral, and other organisms to build their calcium carbonate shells and skeletons.

Because these organisms serve as food and habitat for other marine life, their decline threatens ocean food chains, and by extension human populations that depend on fisheries.

Since humans began burning fossil fuels around 200 years ago, the oceans have become 30% more acidic — a more rapid change than at any time in the last 50 million years.

This fact brief is responsive to conversations such as this one.
Encyclopædia Britannica PH | Definition, Uses, & Facts
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration What is Ocean Acidification?
European Environment Agency Ocean acidification
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