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Waves of Change


The Ocean Acidification Day of Action


8 January 2019

From the shallows to the depths of our blue planet, a crisis is occurring.

Across the globe, seawater chemistry is changing faster than at any time in earth's history. And while this change in chemistry — known as ocean acidification — may be invisible, its impacts are not.

Test your Knowledge on Ocean Acidification

The ice cores in Antarctica give us a glimpse into the past — tiny bubbles trapped in the ice are pockets of ancient air. Using this data, scientists have been able to track how levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have changed over time.

Can you guess the trend?

Partial pressure of CO2, ppm

Year

Reviewing the impact of increased Atmospheric CO2 on Ocean pH and the Marine Ecosystem

Since the industrial revolution, the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere has continued to increase, and is projected to more than double between the years 2020 and 2100.

More carbon leads to higher levels of ocean acidification.

Use your mouse to draw the trend

See How I Did Next

Since the industrial revolution, the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere has continued to increase, and is projected to more than double between the years 2020 and 2100.

More carbon leads to higher levels of ocean acidification.

pH and CO2 data used with permission from Jiang, L-Q., B. Carter, R. A. Feely, S. Lauvset, and A. Olsen. (in prep). Global surface ocean pH from 1770 to 2000.

As nearly 30% of the CO2 that is released in the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean, its acidity level rises.

Can you guess the trend?

pH

Year

Reviewing the impact of increased Atmospheric CO2 on Ocean pH and the Marine Ecosystem

When CO2 dissolves in seawater, the ocean’s pH level drops—dramatically impacting the ocean, its inhabitants, and those who rely on it for their livelihoods.

Use your mouse to draw the trend

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When CO2 dissolves in seawater, the ocean’s pH level drops—dramatically impacting the ocean, its inhabitants, and those who rely on it for their livelihoods.

pH and CO2 data used with permission from Jiang, L-Q., B. Carter, R. A. Feely, S. Lauvset, and A. Olsen. (in prep). Global surface ocean pH from 1770 to 2000.

Have you ever tasted the potato chip of the sea? It’s called the pteropod, and it’s the favorite food of many fish, including salmon. Pteropods are so important to the ocean that scientists use their abundance levels as an indicator of ocean health.

Can you guess how pteropods are faring in our increasingly acidic ocean?

% Pteropods with Severe Dissolution

Year

Reviewing the impact of increased Atmospheric CO2 on Ocean pH and the Marine Ecosystem

In the pre-industrial era, 18 percent of pteropods exhibited severe shell dissolution. By 2100, more than 75 percent of all pteropods are projected to exhibite severe shell dissolution due to rising ocean acidification.

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In the pre-industrial era, 18 percent of pteropods exhibited severe shell dissolution. By 2100, more than 75 percent of all pteropods are projected to exhibite severe shell dissolution due to rising ocean acidification.

Pteropod dissolution data used with permission from Bednarsek, N.

Over 25 percent of the CO2, roughly 22 million tons, in the earth's atmosphere is absorbed by our ocean every day.

As CO2 dissolves, the ocean’s pH level drops, which harms ocean inhabitants—including pteropods, the favorite food of many fish and one of the most important indicators of ocean health. By the year 2100, over 75% of pteropods are expected to exhibit severe shell dissolution.

Over 25% of the CO2 released into the atmosphere is absorbed by our ocean.

That translates to roughly 22 million tons of CO2 absorbed every day. When CO2 dissolves in seawater, the ocean’s pH level drops—dramatically impacting the ocean, its inhabitants, and those who rely on it for their livelihoods.

Shellfish

Shellfish

Shellfish

High ocean acidity interferes with the ability of shellfish—including clams, mussels, and oysters—to build and maintain their calcium carbonate shells.

2013 Total U.S. shellfish landings were valued at $2.9 billion USD
2009 A study found that mollusks—shelled animals like oysters—sales may drop between $75 and $187 million USD annually due to acidic ocean conditions.
2006 Shellfish hatcheries in the Pacific Northwest experienced nearly 80% mortality as ocean acidification led to massive die offs of oysters.
Photo: Alexis Valauri-Orton
Fish

Fish

Increased ocean acidification diminishes the sense of smell in fish, causing debilitating behavioral effects and an inability to find their way.

2018 Fisheries are already under pressure from poor fisheries management and a legacy of overfishing.

More than 80% of global fish stocks are considered depleted.
Photo: Richard Salas
Food Security

Food Security

Food Security

Over 3.1 billion people rely on fish as their primary source of protein.

2018 Over 61% of the world’s total GNP comes from coastal areas within 100 km of the ocean.

Of the people who derive livelihoods from fishing, 90% live in developing countries.

Over 500 million people worldwide depend on reefs for coastal protection, food and income.
Photo: Alexis Valauri-Orton
Tourism

Tourism

Tourism

Over 61% of the world’s total GNP comes from coastal areas within 100 km of the ocean.

2018 Tourism is a primary source of revenues in 46 out of 50 of the world’s least developed countries.

The global value of coral reef-based tourism was estimated at $11.5 billion USD in 2010 and diving tourism is increasing by 20% a year, four times faster than global tourism.

Approximately 350 million people rely on fishing, aquaculture, coastal, marine tourism, and research for a living.
Photo: Unsplash
Coral

Coral

Over 500 million people worldwide depend on reefs for coastal protection, food, and income.

2018 According to the World Resources Institute, destroying even one kilometer of coral reef can translate to the loss of between $137,000 USD and $1,200,000 USD over a 25-year period in fishing and tourism industries.

Every year, the top layer of coral reefs prevents $4 billion USD in flood damage by breaking up waves that propel destructive storm surges.
Photo: Adobe Stock
Biodiversity

Biodiversity

Biodiversity

An estimated 90% of Earth’s living biomass is found in the ocean, and while coral only covers about 0.2% of the ocean floor, coral reefs support over 25% of all marine life.

2018 Even though smaller, calcifying organisms are the most directly impacted, the repercussions of ocean acidification reverberate through every coastal and aquatic ecosystem.

Declines in smaller species, such as plankton and shellfish, due to ocean acidification will cause a collapse of the greater oceanic food web, endangering even top predators, like orcas.
Photo: Adobe Stock

We cannot act if we don’t engage, and we cannot engage if we don’t understand.

Despite the considerable threat that ocean acidification poses to countries around the world, there are still significant gaps in our understanding of the science and impact behind ocean acidification.

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