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Ocean Acidification

Hello, my name is Jacob Kuenzli and I am a freshman attending Metropolitan State University of Denver pursuing an Environmental Science major with an interest in Marine Biology. I have also recently started my position at the ASCP as a Zero Waste Specialist. I have a very particular interest in ocean acidification and the effect on coral reefs. Coral reefs and the oceans in general absorb a significant amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide. However, due to the increased amount of this gas being put into the atmosphere, the ocean’s pH has lowered, which means the acidity in the ocean has increased. Since the industrial revolution, the pH of the ocean has decreased by a value .1 (1). This means there is a near 30% increase in acidity due to the pH scale being logarithmic. This change has also resulted in a decrease of calcium carbonate minerals, which many organisms use to form their skeletons and shells. For example, this shortage has greatly affected the coral reefs and the way they are created.


Studies have shown that if this trend continues, reefs could disappear faster than they are being built (1). Coral reefs are an integral part of the ecosystem. Countless species use them as homes and shelters and if the reefs die, there will be a cascading effect throughout the ecosystem. While this may seem like something too far away to matter in Colorado, it affects us all. We acquire a large amount of the oxygen we breathe from oceans and specifically, sea grass. Oceans that are unhealthy are detrimental to that oxygen supply and therefore anything that breathes. It also affects us when discussing the climate change issue. When the oceans experience a rapid increase in acidity, organisms that use carbonate minerals to form their shells are unable to do so. Their shells dissolve and release the carbon back into the ocean, which increases the acidity. This is called a positive feedback loop and implies that the pH of the ocean will continue to decrease. Another way this affects climate change is with the sulfur compounds released from certain organisms that inhabit the oceans. These sulfur compounds are integral to the formation of clouds and can aid in keeping the planet cool (2). The rising ocean acidification will result in less of a release of these compounds, which will exacerbate global warming. Ocean acidification is just one piece to the larger puzzle of climate change and it is a puzzle that we all need to work on together to solve.


1- pH decrease numbers and results of the studies were sourced by NOAA and PMEL. For more information about Ocean Acidification, check out the PMEL/NOAA Carbon Program Website.

2- Studies about sulfur compounds and the effect on global warming were sourced from Nature an international weekly journal of science.


Works Cited (APA)

1- PMEL Carbon Group. Ocean Acidification: The Other Carbon Dioxide Problem. Retrieved 10/8/2019, from pmel.noaa.gov/co2/story/Ocean%2BAcidification.

2- Barford, E. (2013, August 25). Rising Ocean Acidity will Exacerbate Global Warming. Nature. Retrieved from nature.com/news/rising-ocean-acidity-will-exacerbate-global-warming-1.13602

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