Human Impacts on the Environment

Decent Essays
Human Impacts on the Environment: Ocean Acidification

Ecological human effects on the planet are now about 40% greater than the planet can support in a sustainable fashion (Grossman, 2010). One of the many areas with significant damage is the marine biosphere. Ocean acidification is a great threat to marine and subsequently human life.

The pH level in the ocean has been a relatively constant 8.15 to 8.25 and organisms have evolved under these circumstances for over 50 million years. However since the end of the Industrial Revolution, worldwide burning of fossil fuels and human innovations such as concrete manufacture have resulted in the release of more than 440 billion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Excess
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Anthropogenic emissions over the past 200 years have caused ocean acidity levels to increase by 40 %(Ocean Studies Board, 2010). Without major intervention and significant reduction of the global carbon footprint this will result in severe and irreversible damage to ecosystems and organisms ocean-wide.

Phytoplankton is found in the surface area of the water and is the primary element of varied and elaborate food webs in the pelagic, (an area of open water away from shore and bed) and other marine systems. Phytoplankton is essential for the cycling of nutrients in these systems, and acidification has effects upon photosynthesis, nitrogen- fixation and calcification. These processes are key for zooplankton and phytoplankton composition.

Humans are provided with a variety of services from marine ecosystems, such as protection from erosion and coastal flooding, seafood, nutrient cycling and natural products. As acidification progresses, these precious assets are likely to disappear. Should we choose to, there is both the technology and the economic potential to ensure a discernible decrease in carbon dioxide emissions. This is a far preferable and effective alternative to suggestions of geoengineering, with many proposed strategies failing to address the root cause of acidification (Royal Society, 2005). The longer it is taken to find a combative strategy, the greater the legacy of environmental
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