Acid in the Ocean? FL Reefs Swallow Bitter Pill of Carbon Pollution.

Jul 31, 14 Acid in the Ocean? FL Reefs Swallow Bitter Pill of Carbon Pollution.

by: Stephanie Carson.

MIAMI – This weekend, thousands of people will enjoy Florida’s beaches, but many may not realize the saltwater they’re swimming in is becoming increasingly acidic.

Another unpleasant side effect of global warming, ocean acidification is a steady decrease in the pH levels of ocean water, and scientists say it’s caused by an increase of carbon dioxide.

While greater acidity has minimal direct impact on human health, Derek Manzello, research oceanographer for the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory in Miami, says the state’s coral reefs are suffering the most.

“We’re concerned that as we move forward into a high-CO2 world, we’re going to see coral reefs becoming erosional features and basically, degrading over time,” he says.

NOAA scientists are monitoring ocean acidification with research buoys like this one in the Florida Keys. Photo credit: Derek Manzello

Weakened reefs affect the organisms that depend on them. And Manzello and other scientists also point out that with less healthy growth, coral reefs off the Florida coast and around the world will offer less protection to coastlines in the event of severe weather.

Manzello says the increased acidity has potential to weaken the state’s fishing economy, with many types of high-value marine life found in and around the state’s coral reefs.

“Reef structures are home to a lot of economically important species, like spiny lobsters, stone crabs, many fishes,” he points out.

According to numerous scientific studies around the world, shells of some marine animals are becoming thinner because of acidification, making them more vulnerable to predators.

In June, the Obama administration announced increased funding to research ocean biochemistry, including the problem of acidification.

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