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An Acidic Ocean??

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A study recently published by the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency and the US Geological Survey reports that our oceans are becoming more and more acidic. Why? Our carbon emissions!! It seems that since the industrial revolution, carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere has been playing havoc on the pH balance of the ocean with dire consequences for all the creatures that live there.

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An increasingly acidic ocean will kill marine communities like this coral reef and throw the entire ocean ecosystems out of balance.

Here’s how it works. The level of acidity of any substance is measured on a scale between 0 and 14. When the pH is less that 7, the substance is considered to be acidic. If the pH measures more that 7, it is considered to be base or alkaline. Before the industrial revolution, the pH of the ocean was at 8.16 but has decreased significantly since to reach 8.05 today. That may not seem like a lot but it has scientists worried. It means that carbon gas from the atmosphere is getting dissolved in the ocean as carbonic acid and increasing hydrogen ions that cause acidification by as much as 30%. Researchers believe that this trend will have disastrous consequences for the fragile balance that maintains life in the oceans.

So what happens when the chemistry of the ocean changes? Scientists expect that coral reefs will literally start to melt, shellfish, snails, and sea urchins will have difficulty making their calcium based shells or skeletons, squid will become asthmatic from breathing acidic water, plankton will start to disappear, and unknown quantities of species will start to die out. But the truth is that, although we know the impact will be big and scary, no one really knows exactly what will happen since this is the most dramatic chemical change the oceans have experienced in 650,000 years. And unlike in the past, the changes today are happening rapidly, far too quickly for marine animals to evolve in time to survive.

Ocean issues like this one are relevant to all of us, even if we live in Kentucky and have never been to the beach. The oceans regulate our climate and are a crucial source of food for people all over the world. If the oceans die, it is expected that life on land will start to die as well.

But the good news is that all of you can do something to help prevent problems such as this and it doesn’t mean giving up your gas guzzling SUV to do it! Go to www.terrapass.com and offset your carbon emissions. It may be one of the most important things you can do to help save the planet.