- Elgar original reference
Edited by Paulo A.L.D. Nunes, Pushpam Kumar and Tom Dedeurwaerdere
Chapter 5: The economic impacts of ocean acidification
Carbon dioxide dissolves in seawater to form carbonic acid. As the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide increases, so does the oceanic concentration in order to maintain the chemical equilibrium between seawater and the atmosphere. Carbon emissions from fossil fuel combustion and land use change thus make ocean water more acidic. Ocean acidification reduces the availability of calcium carbonate in the oceans. When carbon dioxide bonds with seawater to form carbonic acid, a bicarbonate ion and hydrogen ion are released. The free hydrogen ions then bond with free carbonate ions and thereby reduce the availability of carbonate ions for marine animals that make calcium carbonate shells and skeletons. Ocean acidification therefore spells potential trouble for species with an exoskeleton. Shellfish and corals spring immediately to mind, but many micro-organisms in the ocean crucially depend on calcium carbonate as well. Besides the direct impact on vulnerable species, ocean acidification also affects the food chain for animals in the oceans and elsewhere. This affects humans too. Fisheries and aquaculture are an important source of income and food, particularly proteins. Coral reefs protect coasts from storm damage and erosion, supply sediments to form beaches and support the livelihoods of entire small island nations. Coral reefs harbour valuable fish and provide excellent opportunities for recreation. Marine species make up a major part of global biodiversity, and play a role in the global carbon cycle. Prima facie, ocean acidification is a reason for concern.
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