Oceans' acidity rate is soaring, claims study
The rate at which the oceans are becoming more acidic is greater today than at any time in tens of millions of years, according to a new study.
Rapidly rising concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere mean that the rate of ocean acidification is the fastest since the age of the dinosaurs, which became extinct 65m years ago, scientists believe.
The oceans are likely to become so acidic in coming centuries that they will become uninhabitable for vast swathes of life, especially the little-studied organisms on the deep-sea floor which are a vital link in the marine food chain.
Scientists have concluded, in a study published today in the journal Nature Geoscience, that the current rate of ocean acidification is up to 10 times faster than 55m years ago – the last time the deep oceans became so acidic.
This is because of the speed at which carbon-dioxide concentrations are rising in the atmosphere. This carbon dioxide dissolves in seawater at the sea surface to form carbonic acid. The increased acidity of the water affects the amount of dissolved carbonate minerals that are available for marine organisms to use in forming their shells and hard skeletons.
When the oceans became acidified in a similar way about 55m years ago, it resulted in a mass extinction of deep-sea marine organisms, especially those living in the sediments of the sea floor, which can be studied geologically through changes to rock formations, said Dr Andy Ridgwell of the University of Bristol.
"Unlike surface plankton dwelling in a variable habitat, organisms living deep down on the ocean floor are adapted to much more stable conditions. A rapid and severe geochemical change in their environment would make their survival precarious," he said.
Studies also suggest that temperatures of the surface ocean rose, and carbon-dioxide levels increased over a period of a few thousand years.
The latest study compared these changes with predicted changes to ocean acidity resulting from continuing increases in concentrations of man-made carbon dioxide expected this century.
Dolphins ‘deliberately get high’ on puffer fish nerve toxins by carefully chewing and passing them around
The 'vampire squid': RSPB attacked by other conservationists for 'misusing funds'
The 10 best folding bikes
Conservationists call for ban on 'Tree of hell' that threatens to damage native plants
Climate change: Carbon trading edges closer as UN brokers deal
- 1 Stem cells that can kill cancer have been engineered by scientists
- 2 Ricky Gervais and Dame Judi Dench back campaign to stop Thailand dog meat trade
- 3 Russell Brand says he will 'probably' give up acting to focus on his revolution
- 4 Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
- 5 Queen's first tweet: Reply telling Her Majesty to 'f*** off' broadcast on BBC News
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Tony Blair 'says Ed Miliband will lose 2015 general election'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Putin: The US is to blame for almost all the world's major conflicts
Attacks on 'Ukip Calypso' show how skewed people’s priorities are
£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...
£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...
£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...
£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...