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Why does ocean acidification matter? What role can you play?
Over the past one hundred years or so, the ocean has absorbed the carbon dioxide (CO₂) released into the environment from burning fossil fuels. Absorbing these emissions makes our oceans more acidic. This change in the ocean’s pH level is called ocean acidification. As the pH levels change, we face increasing threats to our ocean health, marine life and even our economy (i.e. industries such as fisheries and tourism).
One of the most harmful effects of ocean acidification is a decrease in marine organisms’ ability to grow structures like skeletons and shells. Corals are especially under attack; higher acidity slows their growth and makes their skeletons weaker. Since coral reefs are home to at least a quarter of all marine species, losing such a habitat would have drastic effects for our global food chain.
Though ocean acidification is a relatively new topic of discussion for scientists, it has caught the attention of several groups around the world to speak and act in support of our oceans. In an article in Scientific American, Virginia Gewin writes, “Washington State, a leading U.S. producer of farmed shellfish, has launched a $3.3-million, science-based plan to address this growing problem for the region and the globe.” There are other actions and studies taking place in the scientific community as well. The Science Daily writes that at Stanford University, scientists are seeking the sea urchin's secret to surviving ocean acidification.
How much of a threat does ocean acidification have on our ecosystem and food chain?