02 Mar 2012:
Ocean Acidifying Faster Than
Any Time in 300 Million Years, Study Says
The world’s oceans may be acidifying faster today than during any period over the last 300 million years
, a phenomenon that could have dire consequences for many marine species and ecosystems, according to a new study. In a review of hundreds of paleoceanographic studies, a team of international scientists found
that a steep rise in atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide has driven down pH levels in the oceans by 0.1 over the last century, to about 8.1, a rate 10 times faster than the closest historical comparison — a period of acidification 56 million years ago that triggered a massive ocean die-off. The oceans are vulnerable because they absorb excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, turning the water more acidic, which can inhibit organisms, such as oysters and coral reefs, from forming shells. “We know that life during past ocean acidification events was not wiped out — new species evolved to replace those that died off,” said Barbel Honisch, a paleoceanographer at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
and lead author of the study, published in Science
. “But if industrial carbon emissions continue at the current pace, we may lose organisms we care about — coral reefs, oysters, salmon.” Some scientists believe that oyster larvae die-offs along the west coast of the U.S. and Canada are related to increasingly acidic waters in that region
Yale Environment 360 is
a publication of the
Yale School of Forestry
& Environmental Studies
e360 on Facebook
Donate to e360
View mobile site
Subscribe to our newsletter
Subscribe to our feed:
Yale Environment 360
articles are now available in Spanish and Portuguese on Universia
, the online educational network. Visit the site.
Business & Innovation
Policy & Politics
Pollution & Health
Science & Technology
Antarctica and the Arctic
Central & South America
A Yale Environment 360
video explores Ecuador’s threatened Yasuni Biosphere Reserve with scientists inventorying its stunning forests and wildlife. Watch the video.
is now available for mobile devices at e360.yale.edu/mobile
The Warriors of Qiugang
, a Yale Environment 360
video that chronicles the story of a Chinese village’s fight against a polluting chemical plant, was nominated for a 2011 Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject).
Watch the video.
Top Image: aerial view of Iceland
. © Google & TerraMetrics.
In a Yale Environment 360
video, photographer Pete McBride documents how increasing water demands have transformed the Colorado River, the lifeblood of the arid Southwest. Watch the video.