The evil twin of climate change: Ocean Acidification

By Natalie Jonk

So, ocean acidification. That term seems like a title card of a movie sequence right before a documentary on the BP oil spill, so we’ll spare you the Google search. If you’re thinking that this sounds like the ocean is becoming more acidic, you’re pretty much in the ballpark…just a bit (and by a bit, we mean, a lot).

The ocean ends up absorbing the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere- and that includes the CO2 that we land-dwellers give off. When carbon dioxide ends up in bodies of water, there is a chemical process to compensate for the acidity and lo and behold, our waters tend to become more acidic. Now, if we were to end the story there, perhaps it would just send you a little mental note to avoid some acidic water before hitting the beach. However, we’re thinking of something murkier…dirtier…more endangered than just us.

Molluscs. So, it turns out that our shelled clams, oysters, and mussels really suffer as a by-product of ocean acidity. In fact, our mollusc-y (and let’s admit it, tasty) friends are naturally inhibited to form shells because of lower pH levels. But wait- it doesn’t end there. While losing shells can be a problem in your local bay or coastline, it’s also a problem around the world. California, New Zealand, Spain, the Mediterranean, the UK, and many more all report empty patches of once lively mollusc breeding ground. The ultra scientific term for this is “slough-off” so that’s what we’re going to refer it as. Slough-off around the world’s coastlines is alarming, but it’s not just the molluscs we are working to care for. It’s the fish that are exposed to behavioural changes, it’s the harmful algae that gain toxins like a bad superpower, and it’s the loss of food security. To us, ocean acidification seems to be largely unreported, but that’s what we’re about.

Here is the crowd funding video for one of our scientists who wants to find out what is going on underwater in the UK and how it is affecting some of our most loved species, at least food wise…we’re talking mussels, crabs and lobsters!!

 

 

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