News / Science & Technology

Report: Rapid Acidification Latest Threat to Arctic

Commercial fishermen, mariners form
Commercial fishermen, mariners form "SOS" to spread message of saving oceans from acidification caused by fossil fuel emissions, Homer, Alaska, Sept. 6, 2009.
Reuters
The Arctic ecosystem, already under pressure from record ice melts, faces another potential threat in the form of rapid acidification of the ocean, according to an international study published on Monday.

Acidification, blamed on the transformation of rising levels of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the air into carbonic acid in the sea, makes it harder for shellfish and crabs to grow their shells, and might also impair fish reproduction, it said.

Cold water absorbs carbon dioxide more readily than warm water, making the Arctic especially vulnerable. The report said the average acidity of surface ocean waters worldwide was now about 30 percent higher than at the start of the Industrial Revolution.

"Arctic marine waters are experiencing widespread and rapid ocean acidification," said the report by 60 experts for the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), commissioned by the eight nations with Arctic territories.

"Ocean acidification is likely to affect the abundance, productivity and distribution of marine species, but the magnitude and direction of change are uncertain."

At almost 400 parts per million (ppm), there is now 40 percent more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than before the industrial era began. Almost all experts say the rise is linked to the burning of fossil fuels.

With global surface temperatures rising, the Arctic sea ice shrank in 2012 to the smallest area since satellite records began, disrupting the hunting livelihoods of indigenous peoples and opening the region to more shipping and oil and gas exploration. As yet, the consequences of acidification are harder to predict.

Knock-on effects

Experiments with the eggs of brittlestars, which are related to starfish, showed that they died within days when exposed to the levels of acidification likely in coming decades, said Sam Dupont, one of the report's authors from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

That would have knock-on effects on creatures that prey on them, such as crabs and fish.

The report said adult and juvenile fish were likely to cope with levels of acidification likely in the coming century but fish eggs and young larvae might be more sensitive.

In general, the report said, fish stocks might be more "robust to ocean acidification" if the other stresses they are already subject to, such as overfishing or habitat degradation, were minimized.

A warming of Arctic waters means that plankton are growing further north, providing a new source of food for fish such as cod and salmon, but Dupont said acidification would "constrain the positive effects of warming" for some species.

Meanwhile some types of seagrass seem likely to thrive with acidification.

Overall, Dupont said, acidification was "an additional stressor on a system that is already quite fragile."

The report will be presented to Arctic governments at a meeting in Sweden next week attended by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, among others.

You May Like

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More