Money Matters - Simplified

Acidification of oceans may create turmoil in marine food chains

The rapid climatic changes have led to severe deep-sea acidification jeopardizing the growth of aquatic creatures like sea urchins, mussels, clams, oysters, crabs and lobsters. The scientists fear that this trend will be uppermost in the regions near the poles. The sea creatures are facing grave complexity in development inside their shells leaving them exposed to the eye of the predator.

The protective covering

The guarding shells of the hard shelled aquatic creatures like the oysters, mussels, crabs and lobsters are undergoing a thinning procedure. This thinning of the shells is making the creature defenseless against predators. This reduction in sea creatures decreases the seafood sources for humans.

“The results suggest that increased acidity is affecting the size and weight of shells and skeletons, and the trend is widespread across marine species,” stated the British Antarctic Survey.

Reason for acidification

Emissions of green house gases are greatly aided by the human beings. They burn fossil fuels and release large quantities of carbon dioxide into the air that creeps into the depths of the deep seas. This carbon dioxide dissolves to form acids in the oceans.

The acidification of the oceans disables the aquatic animals from extracting calcium carbonate from the waters. The calcium carbonate extraction is extremely difficult in the extremely freezing waters of Antarctica and Arctic Oceans says a study in the journal Global Change Biology. Calcium carbonate is imperative for the sea creatures to develop their shells and skeletons.

Results of acidification

Ocean acidification compels retarded growth in the animals and forces a smaller skeleton on them, was the verdict given by researchers of Australia, Britain and Singapore. The science experts focused on four types of sea creatures — lamp shells,clams, sea urchins and sea snails from 12 different sites, spacing across from the Antarctic to Arctic.

“The fact the same effect occurs consistently in all four types suggests the effect is widespread across marine species, and that increasing ocean acidification will progressively reduce the availability of calcium carbonate,” said the study.

The previous studies show that animals living in places like Antarctica had difficulty in obtaining calcium carbonate and ended up with lighter skeletons.

“Given enough time and a slow enough rate of change, evolution may again help these animals survive in our acidifying oceans,” commented Sue-Ann Watson, from James Cook University in Australia.