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Ocean acidification is a process that is arrived at when an approximated 79 million carbon dioxide tons are released on a daily basis into the atmosphere (National Research Council, 2010). This release is not caused by the burning of fossil fuel only, but also as a result of deforestation and cement production. Since the industrial revolution started, about a third of the carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere as a result of human activities has found its way into the world oceans, the main moderators of climate change (Garrison, 2009). By oceans moderating the changes in climate, the atmospheric carbon dioxide is reduced as well as the global warming consequences. Though the ocean acidification impacts are still not well known, the process is known to cause slow organism growth with the formation of skeletons or shells that are calcareous, like the mollusks and corals (Doney et al, 2008).
Carbon, like other elements, circulates in chemical forms that are different and between the well known different parts that encompass the earths system. These different parts constitute the oceans, biosphere, and the atmosphere. The carbon cycle constitutes the inorganic carbon fluxes, like carbon dioxide, and the organic form, like the complex carbohydrates and sugar found in the biosphere (Fabry et al, 2008).
Human activities, in a time span that tends to be very short, use the fossil fuels, or rather an old carbon reservoir, which accumulated for millions of years, enabling the creation of a carbon dioxide that is massive and new. The oceans can assist in moderating global warming through mitigation of the carbon dioxide flux that is additional, but this has its own consequences. When carbon dioxide dissolves in water, it either gets used through physiological processes, or through photosynthesis, or it can remain free in the various forms it gets itself dissolved in water (Garrison, 2009).
Ocean acidification takes a chemical process through a constant exchange that occurs between the atmosphere and the oceans’ upper layers (National Research Council, 2010). Because nature strives to achieve equilibrium, the carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere and in the ocean have to be equal. Thus, in order to be equal, the atmospheric carbon dioxide suspends in the surface waters of the oceans. There is a dramatic change that is generated in the chemistry of sea water when carbon dioxide gets dissolved in the ocean (Fabry et al, 2008). Once in water, it reacts with the molecules of water (H2O), thus forming carbonic acid (H2CO3), which is a weak acid.
When this acid is formed, most of it dissociates into two forms: hydrogen ions (H+) and HCO3- (bicarbonate ions). When the H+ ions increase in the ocean, the PH, which is the acidity measure, is reduced. This makes the ocean to become more acidic, since it has a PH that is more than neutral (Garrison, 2009).
Due to the carbon dioxide increase in the atmosphere, acidity in the oceans is increasing++ and a fast increase of change rate is experienced. The ocean acidification causes physiological, evolutionary, and ecological consequences in the many marine biodiversity organizational levels (Doney et al, 2008). Though studies to show the impact of carbon dioxide and ocean acidification on marine species are scarce, there is no doubt that the food web is disturbed.
One of the marine species expected to experience change is the sea urchin. This is because it is one of the calcifying species, and due to ocean acidification, it is likely to find difficulty in skeleton production. Sea urchins give reproduction through egg and sperm release into the seawater, directly. When the water is acidified, there is the tendency of sperms swimming slowly. This reduces the chances of egg fertilization, which is formed into an embryo and then developed into larvae. More acidic conditions are expected to lead to reduction of sperm release (National Research Council, 2010).
Ocean acidification is known to lessen the saturation of calcium carbonate, and metabolism is censored by the hypercapnia that comes along with it. Experiments show that when acidity is added to higher levels and the saturation of carbonate mineral is reduced to low levels, the larval growth is affected by reducing drastically, leading to a decreased length of skeleton (Fabry et al, 2008). Given the importance of larva stage in the sea urchins, it is paramount for the experiment to dwell on the echinoplutei, as it plays a crucial role in producing calcite rods that are vital in supporting the body as it feeds and swims. Feeding of larva is highly influenced by the length of the arm, which facilitates the growth of calcite rod. The plaktonic period shortening is influenced by temperature, hence decreasing the predation pressure (Brennand et al, 2010).
When temperatures are amplified (+3°c), development is encouraged, leading to a drastic creation of larger larvae across all conducts of PH up to a verge of a thermal (+6°c). An increase in the level of acidity reduces the level of calcification and arogite saturation significantly, and this creates a possibility for the formation of minor larvae (Brennand et al, 2010). The test, however, shows that hypercapnia and acidification depressing effects can be withdrawn by a warming of +3°c (Garrison, 2009).
The above research shows that ocean acidification is whereby atmospheric carbon dioxide melts into the ocean, thus increasing the amount of acid in the ocean. Human activities like deforestation, fossil fuel burning, and cement production have been discovered as some of the activities that lead to ocean acidification. The process has been discovered as one that leads to change in the marine ecosystem. It tends to reduce the marine population through many ways, one of them being the disruption of the food web. Sea urchin, which is one of the marine species, is expected to be one of the victims, with the ability of skeleton production being reduced. In order to avoid ocean acidification, it is advisable for individuals to avoid human activities that will create more harm than good in future.
Brennand, H. S., Soars, N., Dworjanyn, S.A., Davis, A.R., & Byrne, M. (2010). Impact of Ocean Warming and Ocean Acidification on Larval Development and Calcification in the Sea Urchin Tripneustes gratilla. PLoS ONE, 5(6). Web.
Doney, S.C., Fabry, V.J., Feely, R.A., & Kleypas, J.A. (2008). Ocean Acidification: The Other CO2 Problem. Annual Review of Marine Science, 1: 169-192. Web.
Fabry, V.J., Seibel, B.A., Feely, R.A., & Orr, J.C. (2008). Impacts of Ocean Acidification on marine fauna and ecosystem processes. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 65: 414-432. Web.
Garrison, T. (2009). Essentials of Oceanography (5th ed). Brooks/ Cole Publishing: Harrogate, North Yorkshire. Web.
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National Research Council. (2010). Ocean Acidification: A National Strategy to Meet the Challenges of a Changing Ocean. National Academies Press: Washington, DC. Web.