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Acid oceans update

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  • npat1
    Fw: [CCG] ... ********************************************************** QUOTE: They re seeing that the shells of these organisms start to dissolve even
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 3 7:23 AM
      Fw: [CCG]
      ---------- Forwarded Message ----------


      QUOTE: "They're seeing that the shells of these organisms start to
      dissolve even while
      the organism is still living," said Sabine, an oceanographer with
      NOAA's Seattle lab.



      Research in Pacific shows ocean trouble

      Acidity rises, oxygen drops, scientists find

      Friday, March 31, 2006


      Research fresh off a boat that docked Thursday in Alaska reveals some
      frightening changes taking place in the Pacific Ocean.

      As humans are pumping out more carbon dioxide that is helping to warm
      the planet, the ocean has been doing yeoman's work to lessen the
      effects -- but it's taking a toll.

      Scientists lower 36 bottles used for water sampling from the deck of
      the Thomas G. Thompson while doing research near the equator.

      Over time, the changes could have an impact that ripples through the
      food chain, from microscopic plants that can't grow right to salmon
      and whales unable to find enough to eat.

      The Pacific is getting warmer and more acidic, while the amount of
      oxygen and the building blocks for coral and some kinds of plankton
      are decreasing, according to initial results from scientists with
      National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Pacific Marine
      Environmental Laboratory, the University of Washington and elsewhere.

      "There are big changes," said Christopher Sabine, chief scientist for
      one leg of the research trip, which ultimately traveled from
      Antarctica to Alaska.

      Many of the most interesting results are tied to the ocean becoming
      increasingly acidic because of its absorption of carbon dioxide.

      "You don't have to believe in climate change to believe that this is
      happening," said Joanie Kleypas, an oceanographer with the University
      Corporation for Atmospheric Research, a non-profit organization based
      in Boulder, Colo. "It's pretty much simple thermodynamics."

      And it's alarming.

      "Acidification is more frightening than a lot of the climate change
      issues," Kleypas said. That's in part because the process is hard to

      "It's a slow-moving ship, and we're all trying to row with
      toothpicks," she said.

      Carbon dioxide is a byproduct of burning fossil fuels such as oil and
      gas. Over the past 200 years, the ocean has absorbed about half of
      what's been released into the atmosphere.

      Sabine and the other researchers found that in the past 15 years,
      there's been a detectable decline in the ocean's pH, which is a
      measure of acidity ranging from zero to 14, with zero being most
      acidic (water is neutral, or pH 7, while seawater is about pH 8).

      The pH of the saltwater has dropped 0.025 units since the early
      1990s. The number seems unremarkable, but the pH scale is
      exponential, so a one-unit drop is a 10-fold decrease. The new
      measurement also puts the ocean on track for a dramatic decline by
      the end of the century.

      Plankton -- tiny plants and animals that live in the ocean -- are
      among the creatures that could be harmed by the change. In addition
      to the water becoming more acidic, the extra carbon dioxide reduces
      the amount of chemical compounds used to construct coral and the
      shells of plankton.

      "That's a major issue," said John Guinotte, a marine scientist with
      the Bellevue-based Marine Conservation Biology Institute who studies
      deep sea corals.

      "You're likely looking at serious effects through out the marine food
      web across the board," he said.

      The pole-spanning trip that ended Thursday is part of the Repeat
      Hydrography project. The most recent trip was aboard the Thomas G.
      Thompson, a UW-operated vessel, and lasted about three months.
      Thirty-five scientists from about a dozen universities and government
      labs participated.

      The plan is to survey 19 routes crisscrossing all the world's oceans,
      then repeat those trips every 10 years to detect trends in ocean
      conditions. Ocean measurements were taken every 60 miles from the
      surface to the bottom of the sea.

      Researchers from California State University-San Marcos and the
      University of South Florida towed nets behind the vessel to catch
      plankton, which they then subjected to acidic conditions on par with
      what might be experienced in the future.

      "They're seeing that the shells of these organisms start to dissolve
      even while the organism is still living," said Sabine, an
      oceanographer with NOAA's Seattle lab.

      Some of the creatures tested are little snails that are "a major food
      source for salmon and whales and these larger things and they make a
      shell that is very susceptible to a decrease in pH," he said.

      Other experiments show that microscopic plants at the base of the
      food chain that build protective plates out of calcium carbonate
      don't grow properly in the acidic water.

      "We don't expect to go out and find living organisms with dissolving
      shells," Sabine said. "We expect to find perhaps a change in where
      these organisms are thriving or perhaps fewer of them over time."

      The ocean scientists expressed an urgency over reducing carbon
      dioxide emissions as soon as possible.

      "Anything we can do to slow that rate of change will slow the rate of
      response in the oceans as well," said Kleypas. "It buys us some time."

      � The national project: <http://ushydro.ucsd.edu>ushydro.ucsd.edu
      � Local participants:

      P-I reporter Lisa Stiffler can be reached at 206-448-8042 or

      � 1998-2006 Seattle Post-Intelligencer


      Cold Mountain, Cold Rivers
      Working at the Crossroads of Environmental and Human Rights since 1990
      PO Box 7941
      Missoula Montana 59807

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