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Ocean Acidification – Will Whales disappear?

September 18, 2013

image-stewardship-header-updatedAs lovers of marine life, it’s difficult to imagine our lives without Victoria whale watching trips. Many species of whales and marine mammals as well as fish and other marine life make the Juan de Fuca strait their homes. But with the current rate of ocean acidification—the oceanic equivalent of the greenhouse effect on land—we might not enjoy such a diverse ecosystem for very long.

What is ocean acidification?

We may not live in the ocean, but as much as one third of all the carbon emissions from humans is actually absorbed by it. In one sense, this absorption has helped slow down climate change on land… but new research shows that it has also irremediably affected the life cycle of marine life.

The chemical process is quite simple: when carbon dioxide gets into seawater, it is transformed into carbonic acid. This carbonic acid decreases the PH of water (making it more acidic), especially near the surface, which can stop shell growth in some species and cause reproductive problems in fish.

Imagine how much carbonic acid it would take to bring down the oceanic PH from 8.2 to 8.1. It actually took a 25% increase in acidity over the last 200 years, and projections predict another 0.5 units drop by the end of the century. And the more acidic the ocean becomes, the less it is able to absorb CO2… which will eventually speed up climate change on land.

What effects does it have on marine life?

The effects of ocean acidification are complex, just like the greenhouse effect on land. One of the most important impacts is the death of major coral formations, one of the building blocks of marine life across the Earth’s ocean. Scientists estimate that one coral reef dies every second day—and we only have about 10,000 of them. Coral reefs are disappearing twice as fast as rainforests.

Ocean acidification also affects the basic building block of the marine food chain, plankton. Did you know that plankton actually provides 50% of the oxygen we breathe? Because of acidification, this capacity has been reduced by 6%, also affecting the food chain. With less food for many species of whales, fish and other marine life, the marine food cycle is being threatened. Scientists foresee a domino effect that may cause mass marine extinction in the future.

What can you do to help?

Although you can’t just dump ammonia in the ocean to make it less acidic, you can still help reduce ocean acidification and help keep Victoria whale watching trips happening in the future. Here’s how:

  • Reduce your use of fossil fuels. Bike, walk or take public transit.
  • Support green energy and companies who commit to reduce their carbon emissions.
  • Write to your elected representatives about the issue of ocean acidification.
  • Learn about the effects of carbon emissions on the planet’s ecosystems, including the oceans, upon which all life on earth depends.

We care about the ecological effect of ocean acidification because it threatens the beautiful creatures that we bring to you every day. We think you should care too!



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