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Ocean acidification: the other CO2 problem.

Annual review of marine science

chemistry, Animals, Carbon Cycle, Carbon Dioxide, metabolism, Carbonates, Ecosystem, Hydrogen-Ion Concentration, Invertebrates, physiology, Oceans and Seas, Seawater, Acids

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      Abstract

      Rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), primarily from human fossil fuel combustion, reduces ocean pH and causes wholesale shifts in seawater carbonate chemistry. The process of ocean acidification is well documented in field data, and the rate will accelerate over this century unless future CO2 emissions are curbed dramatically. Acidification alters seawater chemical speciation and biogeochemical cycles of many elements and compounds. One well-known effect is the lowering of calcium carbonate saturation states, which impacts shell-forming marine organisms from plankton to benthic molluscs, echinoderms, and corals. Many calcifying species exhibit reduced calcification and growth rates in laboratory experiments under high-CO2 conditions. Ocean acidification also causes an increase in carbon fixation rates in some photosynthetic organisms (both calcifying and noncalcifying). The potential for marine organisms to adapt to increasing CO2 and broader implications for ocean ecosystems are not well known; both are high priorities for future research. Although ocean pH has varied in the geological past, paleo-events may be only imperfect analogs to current conditions.

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      Anthropogenic ocean acidification over the twenty-first century and its impact on calcifying organisms.

      Today's surface ocean is saturated with respect to calcium carbonate, but increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations are reducing ocean pH and carbonate ion concentrations, and thus the level of calcium carbonate saturation. Experimental evidence suggests that if these trends continue, key marine organisms--such as corals and some plankton--will have difficulty maintaining their external calcium carbonate skeletons. Here we use 13 models of the ocean-carbon cycle to assess calcium carbonate saturation under the IS92a 'business-as-usual' scenario for future emissions of anthropogenic carbon dioxide. In our projections, Southern Ocean surface waters will begin to become undersaturated with respect to aragonite, a metastable form of calcium carbonate, by the year 2050. By 2100, this undersaturation could extend throughout the entire Southern Ocean and into the subarctic Pacific Ocean. When live pteropods were exposed to our predicted level of undersaturation during a two-day shipboard experiment, their aragonite shells showed notable dissolution. Our findings indicate that conditions detrimental to high-latitude ecosystems could develop within decades, not centuries as suggested previously.
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        The oceanic sink for anthropogenic CO2.

        Using inorganic carbon measurements from an international survey effort in the 1990s and a tracer-based separation technique, we estimate a global oceanic anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) sink for the period from 1800 to 1994 of 118 +/- 19 petagrams of carbon. The oceanic sink accounts for approximately 48% of the total fossil-fuel and cement-manufacturing emissions, implying that the terrestrial biosphere was a net source of CO2 to the atmosphere of about 39 +/- 28 petagrams of carbon for this period. The current fraction of total anthropogenic CO2 emissions stored in the ocean appears to be about one-third of the long-term potential.
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          Oceanography: anthropogenic carbon and ocean pH.

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            Author and article information

            Journal
            21141034
            10.1146/annurev.marine.010908.163834

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