Ocean Acidification and its Effects on the Marine Ecosystems

From the time of the industrial revolution, human interventions have made the atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels to rise exponentially. According to scientists, ocean being the largest pool of water on the surface of the earth, helped absorb almost quarter of such atmospheric CO2 and therefore contributed towards maintaining the atmospheric CO2 levels within acceptable levels. However, based on scientific evidence obtained after analyzing seawater chemistry in the past few decades, it has become apparent to the scientists that the acidity in the ocean water has increased gradually. If continued at the present rate, such acidification could threaten the marine life to an extent where some of the important components in the marine ecosystem disappear///////// completely.

Marine life experts believe that acidification of the seawater can adversely affect many types of marine organisms, and among them corals, calcareous phytoplankton, mussels, snails and sea urchins could be highlighted. In addition, other marine organisms, which make use of calcium and carbonate to construct their shells and skeletons, are also in danger. As pointed out by the experts, when the seawater becomes acidic, it also makes the carbonate component in the seawater to be less available. Therefore, organisms, which rely on carbonate to secrete CaCo3, fail to do so in the process of forming their skeletons and shells. In addition, the buildup of acids within the organism’s body will affect its physiology in an adverse manner. Such increased acidity within the organism’s body could lead to a lowered immune response, altered reproduction and physical activity, metabolic depression, behavioral depression and. asphyxiation.

In discussions related to ocean acidification and its adverse effects, collapse of food webs has been in the center of attention. For instance, calcifying planktons forms the base of marine food chains. In their absence, larger organisms might not be able to sustain life, as plankton are an important source of prey for larger organisms. Similarly, swimming sea snails known as pteropods, which have been recognized as an important link in the arctic marine food chain, may disappear forever as acidification causes their shells to dissolve. Being a vital link in the arctic marine food chain, their absence may adversely affect the population of much larger marine animals, such as the whales and top predators, as they are the ultimate beneficiaries of the arctic marine food chain.

Another type of marine organism that might be adversely affected by the rising acidic levels is the sea urchins. Sea urchins help to protect the corals from encroaching algae. With ocean acidification, sea urchins might grow slower, have thinner and more brittle shells or may even develop ineffective reproduction. In combination, these adverse effects may lead to a reduction in the sea urchin population, which could affect the survival of the corals and therefore the survival of an entire marine ecosystem.

While there are many other sea creatures which will be affected by the ongoing ocean acidification, many other factors could also affect the maintenance of the ocean ecosystem. A continued acidification of the seawater could combine with such factors, which include rising temperature levels in the atmosphere, and exert a more lethal blow toward the marine ecosystem. Therefore, the ocean acidification should not be viewed in isolation but should be recognized as one piece of the jigsaw puzzle, which needs to be resolved and remedied as soon as possible.