What got me thinking today was ocean acidification. It’s a big issue! Ocean acidification is, when carbon dioxide reacts with water to form carbonic acid, and depletes the carbonate ions which are used by shelled organisms and corals to develop their calcium carbonate skeleton.
In fact, about a third of all carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is stored in the ocean. Since the industrial era that’s about 525 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. Now that has sped up to about 22 million tonnes per day stored in our oceans.
The problem is the speed of ocean acidification. We’re talking over the next 100 years a change from about 8.2 to 8.1 pH units. Doesn’t sound like much, however that is significant when we are talking a logarithmic scale. Our oceans are capable of some buffering capacity and it was previously thought that this buffering capacity would be enough to account for the change in pH, however over the next 100 years we’re going to see significant changes in species compositions in our oceans.
There are some adaptations that marine species can utilize, one of those is to use bicarbonate to produce a skeleton. Some species even have high tolerances to low pH, others can survive without skeleton building for some time for temporary changes, and then revert back to skeleton building once those pH changes have returned to normal.
Now if we can pre-emp or have a look at what the pH changes might be over the next 100 years, then we can predict what the species composition will be. So that allows us to trial different corals under different pH circumstances predicted for the next 100 years of pH changes. That will also allow us to build reefs, based on what the coral composition will likely be in 100 years.
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