Acid In The Oceans: A Growing Threat To Sea Life
When we burn fossil fuels, we are not just putting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. A lot of it goes into the sea. There, carbon dioxide turns into carbonic acid. And that turns ocean water corrosive, particularly to shellfish and corals.
Biologists are now coming to realize that rising acid levels in the ocean can affect many other forms of sea life as well.
Over the past half-dozen years, marine biologists studying ocean acidification have focused mostly on the animals they assume will be the most vulnerable, such as coral reefs and shellfish. If acid levels in the ocean get too high, their shells can literally dissolve.
Marine biologist Eric Pane is part of a second wave of research on ocean acidification as biologists try to understand the consequences for all the life in the sea.
"Right now we're scrambling and we're trying to get our feet beneath us," he says.
The simplest issue, he says, is to understand how organisms respond to acidification — as well as how the ecosystem responds.