Effects of Ocean Acidification on Shelled Marine Organism

by harrietminc on October 3, 2016 - 5:40pm

            Ocean acidification is a leading issue on the forefront of environmental degradation in relation to the negative effects of anthropogenic carbon. Adrienne South, a journalist for Global News, wrote an article looking at ocean acidification in relation to excess carbon emissions. About a quarter of all the carbon emitted on a global scale is absorbed by the world’s oceans, causing their pH to drop, and in turn become more acidic. The acidity of the water initiates a decrease insoluble carbonate which is essential in the process for marine species to build shells. The article notes that, “It’s time to take action now, so that we will avoid the negative repercussions in decades to come.”

            The purpose of this article is to inform the general public about the harms of anthropogenic gasses and the damage they are doing, not only to our atmosphere but to the world’s oceans as well. It demonstrates the ways that these changes affect many species people may not think about on a daily basis. South (2016) interviewed Dr. Kumiko Azetsu-Scott who noted that these changes are directly affecting oysters, scallops, muscles, lobsters, and crabs. Not only does this prove that ocean acidification is having negative effects on this ecosystem, it also goes to show that we will experience a downturn in global markets for the sale of these species (food based or otherwise). This ties into the concept of uncertainty, as the behavior of the system is not known and it is very difficult to predict exactly how the ocean will react to the drastic rates of acidification.

            Humans have been adding carbon to the ocean since the start of the Industrial Revolution (beginning around 1760). Anthropogenic production of excess carbon is the main reason that the ocean is being acidified. It is also produced by marine organisms when they breathe, and both this type and anthropogenic carbon are classified as dissolved inorganic carbon, making it difficult to separate the two when studying the effects of humans on the oceans. The problem is that we are faced with an extremely large amount of excess carbon that has been produced over the last two hundred years, and the only place for it to go is the ocean. Finding a solution for this issue is next to impossible, other than putting a halt on the release of all human created carbons. The ocean is naturally designed to act as a sink, so as long as there is excess carbon in the atmosphere it will continue to absorb it. Even if we stopped producing any excess carbon right this second, the ocean would still continue to absorb it for many years until all of the excess was removed from the air, and would therefore continue to acidify.

            Dr. Azetsu-Scott, who was interviewed for this article, is a researcher for Fisheries and Ocean Canada that runs out of the Bedford Institute of Oceanography. She uses her field based research to back up the points made on ocean acidification and marine shell degradation. In her field, one of the most difficult issues to overcome is interest conflict, as scientists such as Dr. Azetsu-Scott want to see a reduction in carbon so as to save the oceans but large industries do not want to reduce carbon emission as it would hinder their production and income. Hopefully, the release of human made carbons will be reduced in coming years and the trend of ocean acidification can be leveled out or stopped completely.


Works Cited

            South, A. (2016, May 30). Scientists say carbon emissions could harm marine life in Atlantic Canada. Retrieved October 03, 2016, from http://globalnews.ca/news/2730307/scientists-say-carbon-emissions-could-...



It seems like the "time to take action now" is one that should be applied to all environmental issues, but is often times not the case. In the past few days, false reports have emerged claiming that the coral reef is dead. Though it is not officially dead yet, it is not a good prognosis.

It's interesting to see that our emitted carbon is so similar to that which occurs naturally. In tree species, we are usually able to at least observe where we started having effects, noting changes in growth. This lack of differentiation makes it harder to study and see exactly what effects we are having, but we may be able to extrapolate. Perhaps anthropogenic carbon does the same thing, but at a much more extreme volume. Uncertainty is definitely at play here, not only with our lack of understanding, but also with what it means for the rest of the ocean.