Rising acid levels in oceans have become a huge threat to coral reefs and consequently the food security. Scientists claim nearly 1 billion people in the world depend on seafood as their main source of protein. The high acidity levels are due to the oceans absorbing excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The gradual climate change in conjunction with the increase in ocean acidification presents many problematic issues for marine life and the food supply. According to Jane Lubchenco, chief of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the acid level issue is now climate change’s “equally evil twin.” Lubchenco also claims, the amount of acidity in oceans is increasing quicker than original calculations. Researchers express great concern regarding the deterioration of coral reefs and essentially all of marine life, especially in decades to come.
Oysters, clown fish, and salmon are just some examples of marine life organisms that have been negatively affected by the environmental issues discussed. The high acid levels slow the growth rate of oyster shells and impairs the sense of smell of clown fish and salmon, while also hindering the formation of coral skeleton made from calcium carbonate. Many countries are highly dependent on fish as their main source of protein and rely on it economically as well. Low-income countries undergoing population growth and high levels of malnutrition such as Iran, Libya, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Kenya, Pakistan, and small islands like Faroe and Cook place great reliance on fisheries and are the hardest hit regions. Some of these low-income countries are expected to lose up to 40% of their fish catch by 2050, while the Gulf is estimated to lose over 50% of its fisheries. Additionally, the United States is predicted to lose 12% of its catch by the middle of the century. The high risk for fisheries is evident, and the conditions will only continue to get worse until carbon emissions can be significantly reduced.
Sources: “Rising ocean acid levels are ‘the biggest threat to coral reefs’”, The Guardian, July 9, 2012,
“Report warns of global food insecurity as climate change destroys fisheries” Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, September 24, 2012 http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/sep/24/food-climate-change-fisheries
Student Researchers: Paige Henry and Sarah Crandall
Faculty Instructor: Kevin Howley
Evaluator: Vanessa Fox Ph.D, Associate Professor of Biology and Chair of Biology Department, DePauw University