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Acidification of Arctic Ocean Points toward Horrific Collapse of Sea Life Worldwide

Posted Nov 11 2009 10:00pm

Noted professor Jean-Pierre Gattuso of France’s National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) is a leading authority on ocean acidification. Part of the broad EPOCA initiative (European Project on Ocean Acidification), Professor Gattuso and his esteemed team have been hard at work in the Arctic for more than a year providing fresh empirical evidence regarding the short-term, mid-term and long-term effects of this insidious problem.

As it turns out, Professor Gattuso’s findings are far worse than most experts had predicted for this point in humanity’s technological evolution and reliance on fossil fuels. First, a brief review.

Last year, I explained the dangers of ocean acidification and compared it to battery corrosion. In short, as we burn more and more fossil fuels, we are acidifying our oceans. We are changing the Ph of the sea water. The effect is not unlike the effect on the lungs of people who live downwind of chemical plants or petroleum refineries. Now, as it turns out, the news is even worse.

Professor Gattuso has pointed to a global collapse in sea life within a few short decades and the complete loss of sea life in the Arctic by the year 2018. This is no exaggeration and Professor Gattuso has the proof to back his statements. Gattuso concludes that, “The water will become so acidic it will actually dissolve the shells of living shellfish. This will affect the whole food chain, including the North Atlantic salmon, which feeds on mollusks.”

It’s terrifying, I know, but I suspect that you wonder why the Arctic is so close to biological implosion, right? Professor Gattuso explains that, too. “More carbon dioxide can dissolve in cold water than warm. Hence the problem of acidification is worse in the Arctic than in the tropics.”

So, what is to be done? Well, the solution to this cataclysm-in-the-making is the same as the solution to climate change: we must stop burning fossil fuels. To gather additional perspective, I recommend the following free 4-page Adobe document from the EPOCA blog:

http://epocaarctic2009.wordpress.com/the-science/the-experiments

In closing, I realize that the problem can seem abstract, especially since so few people live in the Arctic. So, I will close with this. The acidification of the Arctic is to the biological collapse of the oceans what the warming of the Arctic is to the warming of the climate. It is the canary in the coal mine, quite literally in this case.

I leave you with more from Professor Gattuso...

“10% of the Arctic Ocean will be corrosively acidic by 2018; 50% by 2050; and 100% ocean by 2100. Over the whole planet, there will be a threefold increase in the average acidity of the oceans, which is unprecedented during the past 20 million years. That level of acidification will cause immense damage to the ecosystem and the food chain, particularly in the Arctic.”

credit Juniors Bildarchiv/Alamy

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