Ocean Acidification

The current atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration exceeds levels in the past 75,000 years by over 20%, with the trend expected to continue. This anthropogenic transformation of the atmosphere has influenced the current oceanic environment; increasing sea levels, acidity and depleting carbonate concentrations (Hoegh-Guldberg, et al., 2007). This process is known as Ocean Acidification . It is estimated that 1/3 of atmospheric carbon dioxide in absorbed by the oceans (Yamamoto-Kawai et al., 2009), which reduces overall ocean pH levels altering the chemical equilibrium. The reduction of pH, reduces calcium carbonate, a substance required for the survival of calcifying organisms (corals, plankton, shellfish). The concentration of calcium carbonate is lowered in areas of extensive sea ice melt. Additionally, sea ice melt increases the interaction between ocean water and atmosphere, allowing additional absorbance of CO2, decreasing calcium carbonate and amplifying ocean acidification. The deterioration of calcifying organisms in the future may destabilize arctic and global oceanic ecosystems (Yamamoto-Kawai et al., 2009; Yamamoto-Kawai, McLaughlin, Carmack, Nishino, & Shimada, 2009).

Arctic Ocean Acidification (2013) - Short (3 minute) version from AMAP on Vimeo.


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Material on this page was provided by Maren Pauly, Department of Geography, University of Waterloo.

Last updated on 06/11/2017