Thursday, May 12, 2011

Ocean acidification – A huge threat to algae

Due to increased levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere our oceans are becoming more and more acidic. Ocean acidification, despite not being mentioned in public as much as climate change and pollution is nonetheless a huge threat for marine environment, and if the acidity in our oceans continues to grow, algae will be among creatures most affected by it.

This is because coccoliths, very small shells of calcium carbonate that encapsulate a number of species of alga, start do dissolve when seawater acidifies.

The scientists learned from their experiments that coccoliths fall completely apart when in water with a pH value that many researchers believe will be found in the world oceans in the year 2100 due to the ever-increasing CO2 levels.

Why are algae important for marine environment? Algae are one of the most important creatures in marine ecosystems because of their important role in the global carbon-oxygen cycle. However, if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise further in years to come this will affect entire global carbon cycle because many algae species will forever perish from our oceans.

There are many other marine creatures besides algae that are finding it very hard to cope with the increased acidity in our oceans, for instance corals. Many latest studies have proved that ocean acidification is a very serious problem that could have enormous negative consequences if world fails to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Hopefully, this and similar researches will bring this important environmental issue into public radar because public pressure is really the only thing that could force world leaders to an adequate reaction.

Ocean acidification is happening very fast which leaves very little time for species to adapt. In normal conditions algae and other oceanic calcifying organisms are stable but as soon as pH falls structures made of calcium carbonate become vulnerable to dissolution, which at certain level of low pH leads to full dissolution.

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