LegumVox

OCEANIC ACIDIFICATION: AN INCIPIENT TO ENVIRONMENTAL CATASTROPHE


Introduction
Ocean acidification is the decline in the PH value of the ocean water over the period of time predominantly caused by an increase in the amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In the era of the industrial revolution, the release of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been amplified due to the excessive use of fossil fuels and deforestation. When these Carbon dioxide is being immersed in the water, a series of chemical reactions ensues which results in upsurge the amount of the hydrogen ions concentration in the water. [1]
Ocean water is considered as the slightly basic which is more than 7 pH. It is estimated that the 30 to 40 % of the carbon dioxide which is been released in the atmosphere is been absorbed by the oceans, rivers, and lakes. To achieve the chemical equilibrium in the oceanic water, some of this absorbed carbon dioxide reacts with the water compound present in the water to form the carbonic acid. Further, these chemical processes in the water lead to the bifurcation of the water molecules into the bicarbonate and hydrogen ion leading to an increase in the acidity of the water. These chemical reactions in the ocean are term as ocean acidification. [2]
This proliferation of acidity in the water is potentially detrimental for the survival of the marine organism leading to the problem such as the reduction in immunity, metabolism, etc. 
An Emerging Global Problem
The increase in the pH value of oceanic water is an evolving global environment which can affect the whole ecosystem. As the acidification will hamper the smooth working of the food chain of the oceans leading to the problem of the seafood. The economy of many countries in the world is dependent on the production of seafood.[3] Over the decades, there has been much focus by the international community to study the potential bearing of the industrialization on the oceans. 
Initially, scientists believed that the absorption of the carbon dioxide by the water body can be a good thing as it will lessen the amount of carbon dioxide in the environment which would help in controlling the increasing temperature of the earth. But in subsequent years, it was apprehended that the absorption of the carbon dioxide by the oceanic water will change the whole chemistry of the ocean.[4] The conclusion came after the close observation by the scientist on the change in the pH value of water making it acidic which will have a severe effect on the marine ecosystem. Even though the ocean is mammoth in size but the increase in absorption of carbon dioxide by the water bodies for a period of time can affect the ocean ecosystem.[5]
In the past 100 years, ocean water has become 30% more acidic. It was believed that the acidification process will be controlled by the dissolved chemicals which are being carried out by the river water into the ocean water to keep the pH of the water stable and controlled. But, the surge in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and its dissolution into the water is making the relative presence of carbon diode molecules more in the water.
Effect on The Marine Ecosystem
Marine Fauna
The erection of Skelton in the marine creature is particularly sensitive to the acidity. One of the molecules that the hydrogen ions bond with is carbonate, a key component of the calcium carbonate shells. To make the shell of the calcium carbonate marine animal combines the calcium ions with the molecules of the carbonate from the contiguous seawater and releases the carbon dioxide and water in the process. Like the calcium ions, hydrogen ions tend to bond with the carbonate, bicarbonate is formed. Shell building organisms cannot extract the carbonate ion they need from bicarbonate leading to a loss in formation of shell in the body. 
In this way, the hydrogen essentially binds up the carbonate ions making it harder form the shelled animal to build their homes in the water. If marine creature has to build the skeleton in the more acidic water, they may have to spend more amount of the energy then what it is required for the ordinary formation of the skeleton in the water. 
Such quick changes in the chemistry of the ocean doesn’t give the time to marine life to acclimate the situation as they are living and evolving from years in the stable pH of oceanic water. These sudden changes shake the marine organism to come at the stage of dissolving into the acidic seawater.[6]
The escalation in the pH level in the water within the limit of the natural process of water which would lead to mass annihilation of some species of the water which may not acclimatize to the changing condition in the water.[7]
Marine Flora
The plant and algae may endure in the acidic condition as they make their energy from sunlight and carbon dioxide so more amount of carbon dioxide would not affect their survival in the seawater. The seagrasses which serve as a home for many fisheries and organisms would grow taller and deeper in the presence of more carbon dioxide as it is food for them. But, these growths of the flora will result in the structural and functional alteration in the marine ecosystem. It would further threaten the fishing industry and shrink the natural shoreline protection. It will increase the erosion risk in low lying areas hampering the climatic condition.[8]
The Surge in The Temperature of Oceans
The acidification in the seas would lead to an increase in the temperature of ocean bodies. It will directly affect the physiology of the marine organism and stimulus the geographical distribution of the species.[9] Some of the species such as coral reefs already living in the upper tolerance limit will have more difficulty adapting to the new areas. An increase in the temperature would lead to the coral bleaching events where the coral expels the algae in the water causing them to turn white. It would affect the production of the oxygen in the water, the decrease in the oxygen in the water would lead to the effect that the marine organism would be affected.
What Can Be Done?
It can be seen that the objective of the United National Framework Convention on the Climate Changes (“UNFCCC”) is to achieve the stabilization of the greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere at a level that would thwart dangerous interference in the climate system cannot be the one fit climate indicator.
The current emission of the target needs significant tightening if they control the issue of ocean acidification and ocean warming. Controlling the global average temperature to below 2-degree C would directly help in lowering the atmospheric temperature of the ocean and acidification can be controlled.[10]
The international reference group on ocean acidification which is composed of the scientist and the various stakeholder need to be engaged in the process to provide the key result towards the research of the ocean condition in the changing world. This research will procure data about the harms and consequences of the changing environment on the ocean and advise the government politician in the international body for the protection of the environment.
Sustainable management and restoration of the ocean are being needed.[11] At the IUCN World Conservation Congress 2016, members approved the resolution calling for the protection of the 305 of the planet ocean by the year 2030.
Conclusion
The ocean ecosystem is a major source of seafood and other resources. The carbon dioxide absorbs by the water makes is more acidic from its original basic nature. These lead to many chemical processes affecting the presence of hydrogen and carbon ions in the water. This decrease in the ions can make the endurance of the marine organism difficult for the calcifying organism such as sea corals, calcareous planktons, etc.
These changes in the chemistry of the ocean water can change the living condition of the non-calcifying organism as well. Certain fish capability to detect the predator is decreased in more acidic water leading to the risk of the entire food web of the ocean at risk as they are the important part of the food cycle in the ocean. 
It can be concluded that ocean water which is not used for drinking purposes does not mean that it can be neglected. It is a major source of other resources. Even, if we ignore the seafood, the acidification can affect the nearby ecosystem of the countries near the oceans.
References
[1] IAP Statement on Ocean Acidification, 12 J. Int’l Wildlife L. & Pol’y 210 (2009).
[2] Scott C. Doney , Victoria J. Fabry, Richard A. Feely & Joan A. Kleypas, Ocean Acidification: The Other CO2 Problem, 6 Wash. J. Envtl. L. & Pol’y 213 (2016).
[3] FAO. 2018. The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2018 – Meeting the sustainable development goals. Rome. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO. Available here.
[4] Scott C. Doney , Victoria J. Fabry, Richard A. Feely & Joan A. Kleypas, Ocean Acidification: The Other CO2 Problem, 6 Wash. J. Envtl. L. & Pol’y 213 (2016).
[5] Kimberly N. Smith, Ocean Acidification: Dealing with Uncharted Waters, 30 Vill. Envtl. L.J. 199 (2019).
[6] Bruce Parker, Ocean Acidification, July 9, 2018, available here.
[7] Rachel Baird, Meredith Simons & Tim Stephens, Ocean Acidification: A Litmus Test for International Law, 2009 Carbon & Climate L. Rev. 459 (2009).
[8] Ellycia Harrould-Kolieb,& Virginia Selz, Ocean Acidification: The Untold Stories, November 2010, available here.
[9] Kelly, Morgan W., and Gretchen E. Hofmann. “Adaptation and the Physiology of Ocean Acidification.” Functional Ecology, vol. 27, no. 4, 2013, pp. 980–990., available here.
[10] Kimberly N. Smith, Ocean Acidification: Dealing with Uncharted Waters, 30 Vill. Envtl. L.J. 199 (2019).
[11] Sarah R. Cooley & Jeremy T. Mathis, Addressing Ocean Acidification as Part of Sustainable Ocean Development, 27 Ocean Y.B. 29 (2013).

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *