Current news media throughout the world have scraped the surface of the rapid bleaching of the coral reefs in the oceans, but researchers have only begun to dive into the causes of this phenomena. The endangerment of coral reefs in the oceans is a consequence of ocean acidification. The emission of carbon dioxide takes the blame for ocean acidification, but humans are to blame for the emission of carbon dioxide. The lowering pH levels in the ocean is a cause of human activity and is devastating the fragile marine ecosystems. At the same time, however, finding solutions to prevent and reverse this damage is up to the humans.
Coral reefs thrive in warm, shallow waters where they reap the benefits of the sunlight. These warm, shallow waters can only be found near shores of land inhabited by the human civilization. Wherever humans live, carbon dioxide emissions also exist. An article published by the Climate Interpreter clarifies that deforestation and fossil fuel emissions, both which are instituted by humans, are the primary causes of the carbon dioxide influx in the atmosphere. While carbon dioxide is necessary for life on Earth, excess carbon dioxide does more harm than good.
Multiple studies have already proven how the buildup of carbon dioxide affects the air in the troposphere (the inner layer of the atmosphere that insulates heat on the earth), but not many have acknowledged its impact on the hydrosphere. One such research institute, called the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL), explains the chemistry behind carbon dioxide’s role in ocean acidification. The PMEL Carbon Program demonstrates that “when carbon dioxide (CO2) is absorbed by seawater, chemical reactions occur that reduce seawater pH, carbonate ion concentration, and saturation states of biologically important calcium carbonate minerals.”
The buildup of carbon dioxide as a waste product of human activity is gradually damaging the oceans, which have more species diversity than any other location on planet Earth. Ocean acidification is only one of the many examples of the negative impact of carbon dioxide emissions. In an article published by the University of British Columbia, zoologist and biodiversity researcher Jennifer Sunday claims that “species diversity in calcium carbonate-based habitats like coral reefs and mussel beds were projected to decline with increased ocean acidification.”
Ocean acidification leaves coral reefs vulnerable and weak because it reduces their ability to build skeletons. Not only does ocean acidification put coral reefs in danger, but it also creates a chain effect. Because coral reefs provide shelter for smaller marine organisms, the weakening of the coral reefs will leave many of these organisms without protection. Consequently, the balance of species population in the oceans will be thrown off as predators take advantage of vulnerable prey. To summarize, the excessive production of carbon dioxide caused by human activity is currently on its path to destroy marine ecosystems.
Humans tend to pursue short term gains without looking at the consequences. Processes emitting excess carbon dioxide are prominent today only because they provide economic advantages for humans and allow industries to conveniently generate revenue. This dangerous mindset is what puts marine ecosystems as well as other ecosystems at risk. Coral reef endangerment will only continue to worsen as a result of the exponential growth of carbon dioxide emissions, and carbon dioxide emissions will only continue to grow as a result of human activity. The only solution to reverse this damage before it becomes irreversible is if humans realize the urgency of this situation and act upon it. The lives of the coral reefs, and ultimately the entire animal kingdom, are in the hands of the human species.
<Brandon Tsai Oxford Academy 11th Grade