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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ocean acidification and the fate of marine life

A few bite-sized chunks of news today that showing the changing nature of the seas we love to dive.

Carbon dioxide from the burning of fossils fuels activities are acidifying the oceans and threaten a mass extinction of sea life, a conference of ocean scientists has heard.
Researchers estimated that since the Industrial Revolution, CO2 emissions belching into the atmosphere and then absorbed into the ocean have already turned the sea about 30 per cent more acidic.
The chemical change is placing "unprecedented" pressure on marine life which make calcified shells, and life such as mussels, starfish, oysters shellfish and lobsters, and could cause widespread extinctions, experts fear.
Seawater is mildly alkaline with a "natural" pH of about 8.2 but the Copenhagen Climate Change Congress conference heard the acidity pH rate of the seas has increased by 0.1
Dr Carol Turley from Plymouth Marine Laboratory told the BBC: "I believe we may be heading for a mass extinction, as the rate of change in the oceans hasn't been seen since the dinosaurs."
Scientists studying the seas around the the island of Ischia, in the Bay of Naples, Italy, (check out the video on the BBC) believe it is an example of what the future may hold.
The water there has increased levels of CO2 because of volcanic vents on the seabed
Dr Jason Hall-Spencer from Plymouth University said: "The changes here have clearly made life impossible for shell-forming creatures."

On the other side of the world, scientists have identified seven new species of bamboo coral discovered on a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-funded mission in the deep waters off Honolulu.
Six of these species may represent entirely new classification of organisms and scientists expect to identify more new species as analysis of samples continues
“These discoveries are important, because deep-sea corals support diverse seafloor ecosystems and also because these corals may be among the first marine organisms to be affected by ocean acidification,” said Richard Spinrad.

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