Oceans have absorbed about 30 percent of carbon dioxide emissions around the world, and it's causing the acidity to rise to dangerous levels for our environment, a study finds.
A new study has found that phytoplankton — vital for the protection of the Earth from increased warming — is under threat from a huge increase in the acidification of our oceans.
According to a Phys.org report, oceans have absorbed about 30 percent of human-made carbon dioxide worldwide, and this carbon is locked in for hundreds of years.
With the increase in carbon dioxide emissions over the last century, the acidity of oceans has increased and the pH has dropped from 8.2 to 8.1 — and could further decline to 7.8 by 2100, which would be a significant decrease for ocean marine communities, according to the report.
A team of researchers from MIT, the University of Alabama, and other academic institutions have found that this increased acidification would have a big impact on phytoplankton, which are microorganisms that create green globs on the ocean’s surface and serve as vital food for whales. Recent studies have also shown that they release aerosols that increase cloud cover, resulting in the deflection of more sunlight and creating a cooling effect on the globe — making them all the more important.
The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, concludes that ocean acidification will kill off many species of phytoplankton by 2100, while others will actually thrive, resulting in a change in the balance of plankton species.
Scientists examined a number of drivers to climate change, including warming temperatures and lower supplies of nutrients, but they found that ocean acidification, of all of these factors, would have the biggest effects.
Stephanie Dutkiewicz, MIT’s principal research scientists in its Center for Global Change Science, said that she was “shocked” by the results, and the findings indicate that there is going to be a bigger upheaval of phytoplankton, and as a result the animals the feed on them, than scientists had thought.