Friday, July 30, 2010

The relationship between humans and marine ecosystems likely to change due to ocean acidification

The examination of the effects of anthropogenic CO2 emissions on oceanic ecosystems includes investigating how the oceans’ uptake of CO2 may drastically alter the relationship that humans have with their environment. In other words, humans should expect to feel the effect of oceanic climate change. The provisioning, regulation, culture and support provided by marine resources are four categories that will undergo change in the decades to come (Cooley, S., et al, 2009). — Julia Levy 

Cooley, S., Kite-Powell, H., Doney, S., 2009. Ocean acidification’s potential to alter global marine ecosystem services. Oceanography 22, 172–181.

 Data from the Food and Agriculture Organization and the United Nations were used to interpret the provisional effects of ocean acidification on marine harvests. A current estimate suggests that marine fisheries provide 143.7 metric tons of product per year, most of which is food. The annual income for these fisheries will probably suffer from ocean acidification because of its effects on calcifying organisms (like mussels, clams, and crabs). These species may decline, and because they are reliable prey for many predator species, a ripple affect may take place throughout oceanic ecosystems. This would, in all likelihood, diminish the income and food these organisms provide for humans.
Regulation of shorelines is another beneficial effect of marine ecosystems. Coral reefs provide physical protection for the nearby shore from waves and tsunamis. Unfortunately, reefs are one of the ecological zones that may be negatively affected by ocean acidification. Without this buffer zone, the coasts may become harsher environments more prone to damage from storms. This could cause an increase in the cost of living in these targeted areas.
Culture is another factor affected by the changing ocean chemistry. Coral reefs, for example, provide tourism, recreation, and income for coastal communities. As oceanic organisms suffer, so will these sources of income, producing lasting effects on the economies of many small countries that depend on such tourism. Developing nations are expected to be especially effected by ocean acidification, because they tend to depend more heavily on calcifying species for their source of protein. The decrease in marine produce coupled with an increase in world population could pose a serious threat to developing coastal countries.

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