Photo via US Geological Survey via Flickr CC
The impact of ocean acidification on sea life is becoming better understood in areas like coral reefs, where impacts like bleaching, altered shells of crustaceans, and even a changing sense of smell among fish can be easily witnessed and studied. But what impact is acidification having on marine life at the poles? A new study in the Arctic north shows that water at the higher latitudes are undergoing as serious changes as other areas, but they're changing at an even faster rate.Physorg writes that researchers from nine European countries have turned a coal mine village off the coast of Ny-Aalesund, just shy of 750 miles from the North Pole, into a laboratory site during July in a major effort to understand how ocean acidification is altering the northern water. Submerging gigantic tubes into the water, they injected them with carbon dioxide, each at a different level expected to be seen in the world's oceans between now and 2150.
The researchers state that cold waters absorb gas faster than more temperate waters, which means the poles will undergo changes the most rapidly. By using the icy waters near the North Pole as a lab, researchers can get a better understanding of what to expect. While corals are getting most of the attention right now, acidification is changing marine life everywhere.
Video: Planet 100 on Ocean Acidification
According to Physorg, "Scientists caution the current frantic increase of seawater acidity is already causing serious problems for the pteropod, a sort of sea snail vital for the Arctic food chain. The tiny, translucent mollusc could end up naked in the near future, unable to shape its shell in an increasingly acid environment, explained Jan Buedenbender, another German researcher from the IFM-Geomar institute."
The loss of the key species in the Arctic food chain can have a disastrous ripple effect, impacting even whales and seabirds.
Ocean acidification has only one possible solution -- less carbon dioxide emitted in the atmosphere so that the ocean doesn't have such a burden of absorbing it. But as we struggle to coax industrialized nations into curbing their greenhouse gas emissions, the ocean will continue to acidify and marine life will continue to cope or die out. It's impossible to say what our waters will look like in a hundred years, but the signs don't look positive.
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