Ocean Acidification Damages Shellfish and Marine Ecosystems

Uncategorized By Apr 04, 2023

Ocean acidification is caused by the absorption of excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by the ocean, which results in lower pH levels. Shellfish are particularly vulnerable to the acidification as they rely on calcification to build their shells, making them more susceptible to disease, predators and death. Meanwhile, acidification may be changing the behaviour and metabolism of marine species and disrupting the food chain. The slow pace at which corals can build their calcium carbonate structures has also put them directly under threat. The best course of action is to reduce CO2 emissions and protect vulnerable species and ecosystems.

Ocean acidification is one of the most pressing environmental issues facing our planet today. As carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the earth’s atmosphere continue to rise due to human activity, the ocean absorbs a significant amount of this excess CO2. However, this process has a detrimental effect on the pH levels of the ocean, leading to ocean acidification. This process is causing significant damage to shellfish and marine ecosystems around the world. In this article, we will discuss how ocean acidification is affecting shellfish and marine ecosystems and why we need to take action.

How does Ocean Acidification occur?

Ocean acidification occurs when atmospheric CO2 dissolves in seawater, forming carbonic acid that lowers the pH levels of the ocean. Since the Industrial Revolution, humans have been emitting an excessive amount of CO2 into the atmosphere, leading to a rapid increase in atmospheric CO2 levels. As a result, the ocean has absorbed an unprecedented amount of CO2, leading to a decrease in pH levels of 0.1 units, which may not sound like much, but it is equivalent to a 30% increase in the acidity of the ocean.

How is Ocean Acidification affecting Shellfish?

Shellfish are particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification as they rely on a chemical process called calcification to build their shells. The lower pH levels in the ocean caused by ocean acidification make it harder for shellfish to produce and maintain their shells. As a result, shellfish are more susceptible to disease, predators, and death.

The Pacific Northwest is one of the regions in the world where ocean acidification is having a significant impact on shellfish. For example, the oyster industry in the region has experienced significant losses due to high mortality rates in juvenile oyster populations. These losses are mainly due to the inability of oysters to develop and maintain their shells in the acidic waters.

How is Ocean Acidification affecting Marine Ecosystems?

Marine ecosystems are complex, interconnected systems. Changes in one part of the system can have profound impacts on other species and the overall health of the ecosystem. Ocean acidification is affecting marine ecosystems by disrupting the balance of the food chain, reducing biodiversity, and increasing the occurrence of harmful algal blooms.

As the pH levels of the ocean decrease, changes occur in the abundance and distribution of marine species, making some species more susceptible to predation or extinction. For example, a study conducted in 2016 found that ocean acidification is causing clownfish to lose their sense of smell, which is crucial for their ability to find their way back to their home reef. This loss of smell makes clownfish more vulnerable to predation and less likely to reproduce, which could ultimately lead to a decline in their population.

Additionally, ocean acidification is leading to changes in the behavior and metabolism of marine species, which can affect their ability to compete for resources, reproduce, and avoid predators. These changes could have significant impacts on fishery management and food security.


Q: What can we do to stop ocean acidification?

A: Unfortunately, reducing CO2 emissions is the only effective solution to address ocean acidification’s root cause. However, reducing other human activities such as overfishing, nutrient pollution, and land-use changes may help ecosystems become more resilient to ocean acidification’s impacts.

Q: How does ocean acidification affect coral reefs?

A: Coral reefs are particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification because the decrease in pH levels slows down the rate at which corals can build their calcium carbonate structures. Coral reefs’ decline can have severe consequences for the health of marine ecosystems as they provide essential habitats for countless species of fish, invertebrates, and algae.

Q: Can marine species adapt to ocean acidification?

A: Some species may evolve or adapt to the changing ocean conditions, but the rapid pace of ocean acidification may outstrip their ability to adapt. Therefore, the best course of action is to reduce CO2 emissions and take measures to protect vulnerable species and ecosystems.

In conclusion, ocean acidification is an urgent global problem with significant impacts on shellfish and marine ecosystems. The effects of ocean acidification are already being felt in many parts of the world, and they will continue to worsen if we do not take action to reduce CO2 emissions. It is essential to raise awareness about the issue and take collective action to preserve the health and resilience of our oceans.