Ocean Acidification

Ocean Acidification

Okay then, if Climate Change is a furphy, what about Ocean Acidification? As CO2 induced acidity increases, at is certainly is at the moment, won’t this affect the capacity of all shellfish to breed and prosper as their shells dissolve or fail to form? Such an event must have a dramatic effect on marine ecosystems.

Here are some recent quotes from a experts:

Study outlines threat of ocean acidification to coastal communities in U.S.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Coastal communities in 15 states that depend on the $1 billion shelled mollusk industry (primarily oysters and clams) are at long-term economic risk from the increasing threat of ocean acidification, a new report concludes.

This first nationwide vulnerability analysis, which was funded through the National Science Foundation’s National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, was published today in the journal Nature Climate Change.

The Pacific Northwest has been the most frequently cited region with vulnerable shellfish populations … “Ocean acidification has already cost the oyster industry in the Pacific Northwest nearly $110 million and jeopardized about 3,200 jobs,” said Julie Ekstrom, who was lead author on the study while with the Natural Resources Defense Council. She is now at the University of California at Davis.

George Waldbusser, an Oregon State University marine ecologist and biogeochemist, said the spreading impact of ocean acidification is due primarily to increases in greenhouse gases.

And here are some more experts from the same university:

Researchers think Axial Seamount off Northwest coast is erupting – right on schedule


NEWPORT, Ore. – Axial Seamount, an active underwater volcano located about 300 miles off the coast of Oregon and Washington, appears to be erupting – after two scientists had forecast that such an event would take place there in 2015.

Geologists Bill Chadwick of Oregon State University and Scott Nooner of the University of North Carolina Wilmington made their forecast last September during a public lecture and followed it up with blog posts and a reiteration of their forecast just last week at a scientific workshop.

They based their forecast on some of their previous research – funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which showed how the volcano inflates and deflates like a balloon in a repeatable pattern as it responds to magma being fed into the seamount.

Maybe the unusually high CO2 concentrations observed in the coastal waters of Oregon have something to do with this persistent underwater volcano.

How long have we got?

Well it is not that simple.

Kate Madin writing in Oceanus Magazine, December 2009:

The scientists exposed the tanks to air containing CO2 at today’s level (400 parts per million, or ppm), at levels that climate models forecast for 100 years from now (600 ppm) and 200 years from now (900 ppm), and at a level (2,850 ppm) that should cause the types of calcium carbonate in shells (aragonite and high-magnesium calcite) to dissolve in seawater.

As expected, in the highest CO2 used, the shells of some species, such as conchs—large, sturdy Caribbean snails—noticeably deteriorated. The spines of tropical pencil urchins dissolved away to nubs. And clams, oysters, and scallops built less and less shell as CO2 levels increased.

However, two species of calcifying algae actually did better at 600 ppm (predicted for the year 2100) than at present-day CO2 levels, but then they fared worse again at even higher CO2 levels. Temperate (cool-water) sea urchins, unlike their tropical relatives, grew best at 900 ppm, as did a temperate limpet.

Crustaceans provided the biggest surprise. All three species tested—the blue crab, American lobster, and a large prawn—defied expectations and grew heavier shells as CO2 swelled to higher level

Evidently the point at which ocean acidification becomes a problem is still some way off even if we assume that atmospheric CO2 will continue to increase at the present rate.

That assumption is not justified. Atmospheric CO2 concentration has varied widely in the past even before the present industrial era. Like global average temperature, CO2 variations are fundamentally random in character and largely unrelated to human activity.

It appears then that the Ocean Acidification threat is all part of the same moral panic as Climate Change.