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The Blog Aquatic

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

From a Year Around the World to Our Office in DC: Meet Our New Ocean Acidification Intern!

Posted On June 9, 2014 by

You never know what small action might set the course of your life. For me, it was an article placed on my bed by my father when I was 17. “The Darkening Sea,” written by Elizabeth Kolbert and published in The New Yorker in November, 2006, tells how carbon dioxide pollution is turning the ocean more acidic, with potentially huge impacts on ocean systems.

Kolbert describes how pteropods, tiny marine snails at the base of many marine food webs, begin to dissolve as the ocean becomes more acidic. An image of a pteropod, cracked and dissolving after a mere 48 hours in acidic water, became branded into my mind, and ocean acidification became an international crisis I couldn’t forget.

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EPA Helps Address Ocean Acidification

Posted On June 2, 2014 by

Photo: Misti Weathersby

Today, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy announced that the agency is proposing new rules to dramatically reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. The new rules, which the EPA is calling their “Clean Power Plan,” would reduce carbon emission from existing power plants by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, an amount equal to the pollution emitted by more than 150 million cars. But what does all of this mean for the ocean? Many people may not realize it, but by proposing the Clean Power Plan, the United States took a significant step towards addressing ocean acidification. Reducing carbon pollution from power plants means there will be less carbon pollution in the atmosphere. And less carbon pollution in the atmosphere means less carbon pollution that is absorbed by the ocean, turning it more acidic.

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East Coast State Legislators Begin Investigations on Ocean Acidification

Posted On May 9, 2014 by

Photo: Ted Van Pelt with Creative Commons License

When people think about the state of Maine, images of lobsters and lighthouses usually spring to mind. For the state of Maryland, people think of blue crab and the rivers feeding into the Chesapeake Bay.  Both states are closely associated with rich maritime traditions, however a change in ocean chemistry is rapidly occurring that could jeopardize not only their maritime way of life, but also the jobs and economic benefits that the ocean and coastal waters provide.

Ocean acidification is caused by carbon pollution from factories, cars, and power plants being absorbed by the ocean, turning it more acidic. In fact, the ocean absorbs roughly 30% of all carbon pollution we put into the atmosphere, and local pollution running off from the land into coastal areas can make acidification worse. Animals that have shells, like oysters, clams, mussels and crabs have trouble surviving in increasingly acidic water. In the Pacific Northwest  ocean acidification has damaged these animals, contributing to billions of baby oyster deaths, significantly impacting the hatcheries and oyster operations in these regions. The impact of ocean acidification on other animals, such as lobsters and fish, are not well understood.

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Connecting the Head and the Heart: Taking Action on Ocean Acidification

Posted On May 1, 2014 by

Even though ocean acidification is a pretty young issue, scientists and journalists already have developed two distinct storylines about it. Scientists start with the details and describe the impacts of ocean acidification last. Journalists put the impacts up front and fill in the details where they fit in. But to create long-lasting action around ocean acidification, we need to connect the two approaches in a new way. Here at Ocean Conservancy, we’re working on exactly that.

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Ocean Acidification on the International Stage

Posted On April 4, 2014 by

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a major report this week, addressing ocean acidification head on for the first time.  Ocean acidification is just as big a problem as severe storms, droughts, heat waves, wildfires, crop failures, disease and ocean circulation changes that are driven by global temperature rise. Just as with these other threats, the need for solutions is urgent. The good news is that there are already solutions at hand – all that’s needed is leaders willing to push for them.

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Mass Shellfish Die-Offs in Canada: Is Ocean Acidification to Blame?

Posted On March 4, 2014 by

Photo: Barbara Kinney, Ocean Conservancy

News broke last week that a company called Island Scallops in British Columbia, Canada, had lost three years’ worth of business – 10 million scallops and $10 million. The CEO, Rob Saunders, identified ocean acidification as the culprit.

Now, there is rightly some attention to being paid to the mass shellfish die-offs in Canada. An oyster farm in the region has also come forward with tales of oyster deaths. The owner of the oyster farm was quoted in Canada’s Globe and Mail as saying, “It’s hard to say [what is causing these deaths] without having somebody there monitoring what’s going on.”

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Youngsters Need Energy to Grow

Posted On February 26, 2014 by

There’s a shift happening in the way scientists are thinking about how ocean acidification affects marine creatures. Originally, when researchers in the Southern Ocean watched the shells of tiny marine snails dissolve in high-carbon dioxide water, they suspected that similar animals with calcium carbonate shells and skeletons would most likely be harmed by ocean acidification. After all, this made intuitive sense: Ocean acidification means there is more carbon dioxide in the water, which lowers the water’s pH. All of this decreases the amount  of carbonate ions in the ocean—the chemical building blocks found in animals’ shells. Wouldn’t decreases in these building blocks rob animals of the very things they need to build their shells?

Ocean acidification biological research has looked at this “building blocks” hypothesis for a while. Many excellent studies have shown that time after time, decreases in seawater carbonate ion levels are associated with decreases in shell building by corals, plankton, oysters, and more. But that clear relationship doesn’t hold for crabs and lobsters, even though they too have calcium carbonate in their shells. And different shell formers respond to different degrees of change. What’s going on?

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