Climate changes affect a large number of ecosystems in the world, but the effect of human activity on the world’s oceans has received little attention. The truth is, earth’s oceans are suffering severe, irreversible effects from human activity. The most prominent phenomena affecting oceans today is increased acidification, which worsens day-to-day and is likely to cause permanent damage.
Ocean acidification refers to the continual rise in acidic levels of the earth’s oceans. This increasing acidification is attributed to one main cause: an ongoing increase of carbon dioxide levels in the earth’s atmosphere. This increase of carbon dioxide is directly related to human activity, most notably the use of fossil fuels. As carbon dioxide levels increase, the excess seeps into the earth’s oceans through the continual water cycle. Once in the oceans, the carbon dioxide transforms into carbonic acid. In small amounts, this type of acid is not particularly harmful and is usually part of ocean ecosystems in some form; however, in large doses, carbonic acid is unnatural and poisonous. The result of this acidification has equaled a nearly 30% decrease in the ocean’s pH levels or the last few centuries. The rate of ocean acidification has been quickly increasing as society has begun relying more and more upon industrialized machines, cars, planes and other inventions that run on fossil fuels, and it is likely that the effects will only worsen with time.
There are many dangers to increased ocean acidification. One of the most direct harmful effects of this occurrence is on ocean ecosystems. Even a slight change in acidification levels can kill off many different species of ocean-dwelling creatures. Some starfish and shellfish populations have been nearly wiped out by increased acidification levels. Mollusks, coral and crustaceans are another few animals that either experience harm or decreased activity as a result of ocean acidification. The main reason for this is the effect ocean acidification has on these organisms’ functions and the development of their exoskeletons. Eventually, it is also believed that rising carbon dioxide levels in the ocean can start killing off large numbers of species while slowing the development of sediments.
There are many proposed solutions to ocean acidification. An obvious movement to decrease carbon dioxide emissions is in effect in many countries of the world. However, in order to reverse damages already done, scientists also propose using phytoplankton as a filtering tool. By increasing iron levels in the ocean, phytoplankton’s photosynthesis processes grow, and more carbon dioxide can be ingested and transformed into oxygen. Ocean acidification needs an effective solution, and fast – otherwise mankind may find themselves in dire straits.