US AGENCY NOAA (National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration) and the National Science Foundation have commissioned the first comprehensive national study of how carbon-dioxide emissions absorbed into the oceans may be altering fisheries, marine mammals, coral reefs and other natural resources. The work will be carried out by the US National Academy of Sciences.
It is reckoned that, since the beginning of the industrial era, the oceans have absorbed about a third of all manmade CO emissions released into the air. The ability of the oceans to absorb the gas has reduced some of the harmful effects of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and on land. But NOAA says scientists are finding that the continued, increased absorption of these gases is altering the biology and chemistry of oceans in fundamental ways. Absorption of large amounts of CO alters the chemistry of the oceans by reducing the pH of seawater – that is, acidification is taking place.
With increasing CO in seawater, shellfish and corals cannot absorb enough calcium carbonate to build strong skeletons and shells. Greater acidity slows growth and even dissolves ocean plant and animal shells.