Saving Ocean Ecosystems

NOAA

It’s not news that global warming is destroying ocean ecosystems by increasing the acidification of the water.  Higher levels of carbon dioxide raise the acidity of the water. And this isn’t just theory. We are already seeing the effects. Oysters are already dying in greater numbers in the Pacific Northwest according to Elizabeth Grossman:

Ocean acidification — which makes it difficult for shellfish, corals, sea urchins, and other creatures to form the shells or calcium-based structures they need to live — was supposed to be a problem of the future. But because of patterns of ocean circulation, Pacific Northwest shellfish are already on the front lines of these potentially devastating changes in ocean chemistry. Colder, more acidic waters are welling up from the depths of the Pacific Ocean and streaming ashore in the fjords, bays, and estuaries of Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, exacting an environmental and economic toll on the region’s famed oysters.


This has been one of the biggest fears surrounding global warming. That said, there is a little positive news. A new study of rocky reefs in the Mediterranean

found that that there was not a significant difference in ecological health between reefs that were partially protected, allowing some fishing and other activities, and those that had no protection at all. The conclusion…is that to fully protect reefs and nurture biodiversity on them, “no take” fishing zones must be established and strictly enforced.

Unfortunately, this does not affect the acidity levels, but it does help draw a roadmap for how to bring things back from the edge. Short of solving the problem of global warming, there are geo-engineering schemes such as dumping quicklime into the ocean that offer of the hope of reducing ocean acidity. But there is always the problem of unintended consequences: when we start going to great lengths to solve one problem, we often create another.

 

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