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The Ocean is Saving Us?For Now

Scientists have discovered that nearly 50% of the carbondioxide that humans have pumped into the atmosphere over thelast 200 years has been absorbed by the ocean. This meansthat greenhouse gases aren't as high as they would beotherwise, meaning global warming has been sloweddown?for now. But what effect does all this CO2 have on thefish so many people need to survive?

NOAA's Christopher Sabine says, "If the ocean had notremoved 118 billion metric tons of carbon between 1800 and1994, the CO2 level in the atmosphere would be about 55parts per million greater than currently observed." Duringthe next few thousand years, it?s estimated about 90% of theman-made CO2 emissions will end up in the ocean. At themoment the oceans hold only about a third of the CO2 thatthey can, so they'll be able to continue to soak it up inthe future, but at what cost to their health?

The heavy concentration of carbon dioxide in the oceans hasmakes it harder for corals, some mollusks and some planktonto pull carbonate ions from the water to form shells, whichare made of calcium carbonate. In areas where CO2concentrations are particularly high, their shells begin todissolve.

Researcher Victoria Fabry says, "Based on our presentknowledge, it appears that as seawater CO2 levels rise, theskeletal growth rates of calcareous plankton will bereduced?as a result of the effects of CO2 on calcification."

This CO2 isn't distributed evenly, because CO2 gets into theocean at the surface and mixes with the rest of the waterslowly. This means that most CO2 is found near the surfaceof the ocean, or in seas that are shallow. Sabine says,"About half of the?CO2 (produced by human activity)?over thelast 200 years can be found in the upper 10% of the ocean."Will it affect more sea creatures as it slowly mixes withthe rest of the water?

Do we really need the shelled creatures of the sea? They arepart of a food chain which could eventually lead to ashortage of the fish the world depends on for food. Andplankton creates about 50% of the world's oxygen, so withoutit, we?ll quickly come to theendof the world.

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