PDF _ R40143 - Ocean Acidification
27-May-2010; Eugene H. Buck, Peter Folger; 15 p.

Update: Previous releases:
July 2, 2009

Abstract: With increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, the extent of effects on the ocean and marine resources is an increasing concern. One aspect of this issue is the ongoing process (known as ocean acidification) whereby seawater becomes less alkaline as more CO2 dissolves in it, causing hydrogen ion concentration in seawater to increase. Scientists are concerned that increasing hydrogen ion concentration could reduce growth or even cause death of shell-forming animals (e.g., corals, mollusks, and certain planktonic organisms) as well as disrupt marine food webs and the reproductive physiology of certain species. While not yet fully understood, the ecological and economic consequences of ocean acidification could be substantial.

Scientists are concerned that increasing hydrogen ion concentration in seawater could alter biogeochemical cycles, disrupt physiological processes of marine organisms, and damage marine ecosystems. This report does not discuss the effects of increasing thermal stress to marine organisms and ecosystems (e.g., coral bleaching) related to climate change. However, marine ecosystems are likely to be affected by the synergistic effects of factors involved in both thermal and chemical processes.

Congress is beginning to focus attention on better understanding ocean acidification and determining how this concern might be addressed. In the 111th Congress, the Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Act of 2009 (Title XII, Subtitle D, of P.L. 111-11) directed the Secretary of Commerce to establish an ocean acidification program within NOAA, established an interagency committee to develop an ocean acidification research and monitoring plan, and authorized appropriations through FY2012 for NOAA and the National Science Foundation.

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Topics: Water, Climate Change

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