Ocean acidification 101

Mussels

Ocean acidification is a big topic in the news these days, but what exactly is it? Put simply, it’s an alteration of the ocean’s natural acid-base balance. The ocean absorbs carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. When we burn fossil fuels such as oil and coal, more CO2 is created. As the ocean soaks up those excess emissions, the chemistry of the seawater changes—both locally and globally. Ocean waters that are too acidic eat away at animal shells and coral skeletons and make new shells hard to form. The Seattle Aquarium recently hosted Governor Christine Gregoire and her blue-ribbon panel on ocean acidification as they presented their final recommendations as part of the Washington Shellfish Initiative; see our related blog post for details.

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