The Canadian Coast Guard ship, the Amundsen Research Icebreaker in the Queen Maud Gulf, as seen from a helicopter overhead. Hundreds of scientists from Canada and around the world have spent time aboard the vessel conducting experiments in the Arctic waters. The ship was laid up for repairs in 2012 but will resume activity this summer
Photo Credit: Patricia Bell-CBC

Arctic waters “particularly vulnerable” to acidification from human generated CO2

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A new report from the  Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme  says that changes in the pH levels of Arctic waters are already taking place, and will have a major effect upon the marine ecosystems in the far north, and implications for the people living there.

“The primary driver of ocean acidification is uptake of carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere by human activities”

The study noted that the average acidity of the surface of the world’s oceans has increased by about 30 per cent, Ocean acidification occurs because some of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels dissolves in the ocean. The CO2 reacts with water to produce carbonic acid, which causes the oceans to become more acidic.

The report notes that  owing to the large quantities of freshwater supplied from rivers and melting ice, the  Arctic Ocean is less effective at chemically neutralizing carbon dioxide’s acidifying effects. In addition, the Arctic Ocean is cold, which favours the transfer of carbon dioxide from the air into the ocean. In its second point in the summary, the report says human activities are the major contributor to  CO2 levels in the atmosphere, and in turn, increased acidity in the oceans.

The AMAP report says it is difficult to fully understand the affects on various species but notes that changes to the ecosystem will be significant. It says some species may be advantaged by increased acidity, while others compromised, possibly to the extent of local extinction. Shell-building mollusks will likely be adversely affected, while some plant species may benefit.

The report finds that while there will be great changes with increased acidity, there are a great many variables and frim predictions are not possible, especially when the additional factors of warmer temperatures, current changes, pollution occur.  The various affects on differeing species, and the likely arrival of other species into warming waters will also likely have major changes on the marine environment.

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