Where Does It Affect?

Ocean acidification has no boundaries, but certain areas are getting hit harder than others.

Coral structures including the Great Barrier Reef in Australia are particularly experiencing the impacts of increasing acidification, with coral bleaching and algae blooms becoming more frequent and intense. As it is increasingly difficult for coral to create hard structures to protect them, they are more vulnerable to erosion. Corals grow their skeletons from a calcium carbonate called aragonite, but due to lowering levels of this carbonate from its dissolution, the skeletons will begin to dissolve faster than they can be built. The Great Barrier Reef has lost half of its coral cover in the past thirty years, from acidification, storm damage, invasive species, and bleaching. The resilience of the reef is being detrimentally hindered by this acidification and could cause a majority of the coral to dissolve before being able to rebuild itself. The Greater Caribbean Region faces similar issues, with at least two-thirds of the coral reefs being threatened by human impacts, including ocean acidification.

The polar oceans in the Arctic and Antarctic are especially vulnerable to this phenomenon due to their cooler temperatures. Cooler water uptake more carbon dioxide than warmer areas near the equator, which are actually releasing this greenhouse gas. The ice sheets melting in the polars is declining the salinity of the water and making it acidify even faster, as dissolved salt buffers the effects of acidification. Additionally, the increase of open water surface is growing as the ice covers melt, leaving larger areas available for more carbon dioxide uptake. This effect is threatening the marine ecosystems, with species such as Atlantic cod having to move north due to rising temperatures. This is then interfering with native Polar cod species, demonstrating the widespread effects of this phenomena.