Nav: Home

Current rates of ocean acidification are unparalleled in Earth's history

March 01, 2012

The study, based on an expert workshop led by Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the University of Bristol, assessed in detail a number of climate change events in the planet's history, including the asteroid impact that made the dinosaurs go extinct and the Permian mass-extinction which wiped out around 95 per cent of all life on Earth. The findings are reported this week in Science.

Oceans are currently absorbing about a quarter of the CO2 released into the atmosphere, lowering the pH of the surface ocean. As atmospheric CO2 increases, so does the rate at which it will dissolve in seawater, forcing surface ocean pH lower and lower - a process called ocean acidification.

Laboratory experiments suggest that if the pH continues to fall, we may start to see impacts on marine organisms such as slower growth, fewer offspring, muscle wastage, dwarfism, reduced activity and the dissolution of their carbonate shells - with knock-on effects throughout the marine ecosystem. However, as a large number of processes are involved, it is hard to predict what ecosystems in the oceans will look like in future and to what extent humans will be able to continue to benefit from the resources oceans provide.

In order to learn about the future, the researchers looked to the past, reviewing climate events over the past 300 million years that showed evidence of elevated atmospheric CO2, global warming and ocean acidification.

Dr Daniela Schmidt, a Royal Society Research Fellow in Bristol University's School of Earth Sciences, was one of the organizers of the workshop which gathered all the experts and compiled the evidence. She said: "Laboratory experiments can tell us about how individual marine organisms react, but the geological record is a real time experiment involving the entire ocean."

Professor Andy Ridgwell added: "The geological record suggests that the current acidification is potentially unparalleled in at least the last 300 million years of Earth history, and raises the possibility that we are entering an unknown territory of marine ecosystem change.

"Although similarities exist, nothing in the last 300 million years parallels rates of future projections in terms of the disrupting of ocean carbonate chemistry - a consequence of the unprecedented rapidity of CO2 release currently taking place."
Notes to editors


'The Geological Record of Ocean Acidification' by Bärbel Hönisch, Andy Ridgwell, Daniela N. Schmidt et al. in Science

This work was based on a workshop on Paleocean Acidification and Carbon Cycle Perturbation Events funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and PAGES (Past Global Changes).

Professor Ridgwell and Dr Schmidt are funded by the Royal Society in the form of University Research Fellowships

University of Bristol

Related Global Warming Articles:

Intensified global monsoon extreme rainfall signals global warming -- A study
A new study reveals significant associations between global warming and the observed intensification of extreme rainfall over the global monsoon region and its several subregions, including the southern part of South Africa, India, North America and the eastern part of the South America.
Global warming's impact on undernourishment
Global warming may increase undernutrition through the effects of heat exposure on people, according to a new study published this week in PLOS Medicine by Yuming Guo of Monash University, Australia, and colleagues.
Global warming will accelerate water cycle over global land monsoon regions
A new study provides a broader understanding on the redistribution of freshwater resources across the globe induced by future changes in the monsoon system.
Comparison of global climatologies confirms warming of the global ocean
A report describes the main features of the recently published World Ocean Experiment-Argo Global Hydrographic Climatology.
Six feet under, a new approach to global warming
A Washington State University researcher has found that one-fourth of the carbon held by soil is bound to minerals as far as six feet below the surface.
Can we limit global warming to 1.5 °C?
Efforts to combat climate change tend to focus on supply-side changes, such as shifting to renewable or cleaner energy.
Global warming: Worrying lessons from the past
56 million years ago, the Earth experienced an exceptional episode of global warming.
Global warming: More insects, eating more crops
Rising global temperatures are expected to significantly increase crop losses from insects, especially in temperate regions, a new study finds.
Global fisheries could still become more profitable despite global warming
Global commercial fish stocks could provide more food and profits in the future, despite warming seas, if adaptive management practices are implemented.
Global warming may be twice what climate models predict
Future global warming may eventually be twice as warm as projected by climate models under business-as-usual scenarios and even if the world meets the 2°C target sea levels may rise six metres or more, according to an international team of researchers from 17 countries.
More Global Warming News and Global Warming Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Accessing Better Health
Essential health care is a right, not a privilege ... or is it? This hour, TED speakers explore how we can give everyone access to a healthier way of life, despite who you are or where you live. Guests include physician Raj Panjabi, former NYC health commissioner Mary Bassett, researcher Michael Hendryx, and neuroscientist Rachel Wurzman.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#543 Give a Nerd a Gift
Yup, you guessed it... it's Science for the People's annual holiday episode that helps you figure out what sciency books and gifts to get that special nerd on your list. Or maybe you're looking to build up your reading list for the holiday break and a geeky Christmas sweater to wear to an upcoming party. Returning are pop-science power-readers John Dupuis and Joanne Manaster to dish on the best science books they read this past year. And Rachelle Saunders and Bethany Brookshire squee in delight over some truly delightful science-themed non-book objects for those whose bookshelves are already full. Since...
Now Playing: Radiolab

An Announcement from Radiolab