UK Government’s Chief Scientist says acidification is causing “substantial risks to marine ecosystems”

The BBC reports, 24th October 2014: “The UK’s chief scientist says the oceans face a serious and growing risk from man-made carbon emissions. The oceans absorb about a third of the CO2 that’s being produced by industrial society, and this is changing the chemistry of seawater.

Sir Mark Walport warns that the acidity of the oceans has increased by about 25% since the industrial revolution, mainly thanks to man-made emissions. CO2 reacts with the sea water to form carbonic acid.

He told BBC News: “If we carry on emitting CO2 at the same rate, ocean acidification will create substantial risks to complex marine food webs and ecosystems.” He said the current rate of acidification is believed to be unprecedented within the last 65 million years — and may threaten fisheries in future. The consequences of acidification are likely to be made worse by the warming of the ocean expected with climate change, a process which is also driven by CO2.

Sir Mark’s comments come as recent British research suggests the effects of acidification may be even more pervasive than previously estimated.

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“Until now studies have identified species with calcium-based shells as most in danger from changing chemistry. But researchers in Exeter have found that other creatures will also be affected because as acidity increases it creates conditions for animals to take up more coastal pollutants like copper.

The angler’s favourite bait — the humble lugworm — suffers DNA damage as a result of the extra copper. The pollutant harms their sperm, and their offspring don’t develop properly.

“It’s a bit of a shock, frankly,” said biologist Ceri Lewis from Exeter University, one of the report’s authors. “It means the effects of ocean acidification may be even more serious than we previously thought. We need to look with new eyes at things which we thought were not vulnerable.”

Source: BBC News, 24th October 2014. For full details see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-29746880

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