“Ocean conditions are already more extreme than those experienced by marine organisms and ecosystems for millions of years,” the researchers say in the latest issue of the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution (TREE).
“This emphasises the urgent need to adopt policies that drastically reduce CO2 emissions.”
Ocean acidification, which the researchers call the ‘evil twin of global warming’, is caused when the CO2 emitted by human activity, mainly burning fossil fuels, dissolves into the oceans. It is happening independently of, but in combination with, global warming.
“Evidence gathered by scientists around the world over the last few years suggests that ocean acidification could represent an equal – or perhaps even greater threat – to the biology of our planet than global warming,” co-author Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and The Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland says.
More than 30% of the CO2 released from burning fossil fuels, cement production, deforestation and other human activities goes straight into the oceans, turning them gradually more acidic.
“The resulting acidification will impact many forms of sea life, especially organisms whose shells or skeletons are made from calcium carbonate, like corals and shellfish. It may interfere with the reproduction of plankton species which are a vital part of the food web on which fish and all other sea life depend,” he adds.
The scientists say there is now persuasive evidence that mass extinctions in past Earth history, like the “Great Dying” of 251 million years ago and another wipeout 55 million years ago, were accompanied by ocean acidification, which may have delivered the deathblow to many species that were unable to adapt.
“These past periods can serve as great lessons of what we can expect in the future, if we continue to push the acidity of the ocean even further” said lead author, Dr. Carles Pelejero, from ICREA and the Marine Science Institute of CSIC in Barcelona, Spain.
“Given the impacts we see in the fossil record, there is no question about the need to immediately reduce the rate at which we are emitting carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,” he said further.
“Today, the surface waters of the oceans have already acidified by an average of 0.1 pH units from pre-industrial levels, and we are seeing signs of its impact even in the deep oceans”, said co-author Dr. Eva Calvo, from the Marine Science Institute of CSIC in Barcelona, Spain.
“Future acidification depends on how much CO2 humans emit from here on – but by the year 2100 various projections indicate that the oceans will have acidified by a further 0.3 to 0.4 pH units, which is more than many organisms like corals can stand”, Prof. Hoegh-Guldberg says.
“This will create conditions not seen on Earth for at least 40 million years”.
“These changes are taking place at rates as much as 100 times faster than they ever have over the last tens of millions of years” Prof. Hoegh-Guldberg says.
Under such circumstances “Conditions are likely to become very hostile for calcifying species in the north Atlantic and Pacific over the next decade and in the Southern Ocean over the next few decades,” the researchers warn.
Besides directly impacting on the fishing industry and its contribution to the human food supply at a time when global food demand is doubling, a major die-off in the oceans would affect birds and many land species and change the biology of Earth as a whole profoundly, Prof. Hoegh-Guldberg adds.
Palaeo-perspectives on ocean acidification by Carles Pelejero, Eva Calvo and Ove Hoegh-Guldberg is published in the latest issue of the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution (TREE), number 1232.More information:
Further reports about: > CO2 > CO2 emission > CSIC > CoECRS > Earth's magnetic field > Ecology > Evolution > ICREA > Marine science > Science TV > TREE > burning fossil > burning fossil fuels > deep ocean > fossil fuels > global warming > mass extinction > ocean acidification > sea life > surface water
Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
03.04.2017 | American Chemical Society
Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
28.04.2017 | Event News
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering
28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences
28.04.2017 | Life Sciences