Sustainability

The Pacific Ocean Is Getting More Acidic

So much so that it’s affecting Dungeness crabs’ shells.

Wikimedia Commons

The Pacific Ocean is becoming more acidic—and it's affecting the Dungeness crabs that live in it.
 
The ocean absorbs nearly 30% of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which is beneficial for the air we breathe. This creates a chemical reaction that creates carbonate ions that help marine calcifiers like oysters, shellfish, and coral grow their shells. But the rising ocean acidity means less carbonate ions and weaker calcifier shells and skeletons. It also releases an excess nutrient that creates algae blooms and increases sea temperatures/salinity, according to NOAA.
 
Among these animals affected by the increased ocean acidity is the Dungeness crab, which is a vital commodity in commercial fisheries in the Pacific Northwest, CNN reports. A study, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, found that the increased acidity in coastal habitats that house the Dungeness crabs are causing their carapace, or shells, to dissolute. Overall, there has been a 10% dissolution increase over the last two decades.
 
"If the crabs are affected already, we really need to make sure we pay much more attention to various components of the food chain before it is too late," the study’s lead author Nina Bednarsek told CNN.
 
This isn’t the first time the ocean’s acidity levels threatened the earth’s ecosystem—in fact a recent study found the acidity was a direct result of the asteroid that decimated the dinosaur population. 

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