Acidification of our oceans: unprecedented rate in past 300 million years

Recent news articles:

December 16, 2015 The ability of baby fish to find a home, or other safe haven, to grow into adulthood will be severely impacted under predicted ocean acidification. Rossi, T., et al. Ocean acidification boosts larval fish development but reduces the window of opportunity for successful settlement. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2015; 282 (1821)

Acid stats

  • 30% rise in acidity since preindustrial times (13 July 2012. Sciencevol 337:146)
  • 150% increase by 2100 (13 July 2012. Sciencevol 337:146)

Hönisch, Bärbel, et al. 2 Mar 2012. The Geological Record of Ocean Acidification. Science vol 335 #6072 1058-63.

This paper looks at the last 300 million years of acidification of oceans (beyond that it’s hard to find evidence) and concludes that the rate we’re acidifying the ocean is unprecedented, which makes it hard to predict the outcome.

Extinctions in the past were caused by both warming and consequent oxygen depletion as well as acidification from volcanic eruptions.   Our burning of fossil fuels is causing a faster release of CO2 than past volcanic eruptions– faster than any of the 5 mass extinctions in the past, so we can’t predict how soon and what magnitude the next extinction will be.  But it may be of a magnitude unparalleled by any extinction in the past .  The Permian extinction killed up to 95% of ocean life.

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