Rising levels of acidity in the Pacific Ocean are dissolving the exoskeletons of animals like Dungeness crabs in the U.S. Pacific Northwest.
A recent study published in Science of The Total Environment found that the Pacific Ocean’s pH has lowered due to a rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide. About a third of all carbon dioxide comes from fossil fuel combustion that becomes trapped in the world’s oceans. When carbon dioxide (CO2) is absorbed into the ocean it breaks apart into calcium carbonate (CaCO3) and unstable oxygen (O2-). The unstable oxygen picks up a free hydrogen (H+), lowering the ocean’s pH.
As the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases, it lowers the ocean’s pH and makes it more acidic. The increased acidity dissolves the calcium carbonate found in ocean organisms, like the exoskeletons of crabs.
“If the crabs are affected already, we really need to make sure we start to pay much more attention to various components of the food chain before it is too late,” said lead author Nina Bednarsek, senior scientist with the Southern California Coastal Water Project, in the NOAA release.
The only way to reduce the ocean acidification is to decrease the amount of carbon dioxide concentrated in the atmosphere.