Ocean Acidification Facts: 15 Statistics About Ocean Acidification

Ocean Acidification facts

Ocean acidification is a significant problem that needs to be addressed. Yet, very few people are aware of ocean acidification.

So, what is ocean acidification? It’s the drop in pH level in the oceans due to an uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. High carbon dioxide emissions have caused the oceans to acidify at a fast rate. The consequences to human and marine life are severe.

To help you understand ocean acidification, we highlight common ocean acidification facts.

Statistics & Facts About Ocean Acidification

1. The ocean absorbs approximately 26% of the carbon dioxide we produce

26% of the carbon dioxide we produce is absorbed by the ocean. This is equal to 22 million tons a day. This is mainly from the consumption of fossil fuels.

2. Acidity has increased by 28%

According to ocean acidification stats, acidity has increased by 28% since the Industrial Revolution. The average global surface ocean pH has dropped by 0.1 pH units from 8.2 pH in pre-industrial times to 8.1 pH today. This is 100 times faster than any change in acidity in the past 100 million years.

3. Acidification is higher in colder areas

Some areas worldwide are more acidic than others because carbon dioxide dissolves faster in colder water. Vulnerable areas include the oceans near the North and South poles. Other areas include the west coasts of North America, Africa, and South America.

4. Ocean acidification is changing seawater chemistry

When carbon dioxide dissolves into the water, it forms carbonic acid. The acid separates into hydrogen ions and bicarbonate ions. The hydrogen ions bond with free carbonate ions to form bicarbonate products. Excess carbon dioxide has led to an excess of bicarbonate products. Subsequently, there is a reduction of carbonate ions needed to form calcium carbonate.

5. Acidification reduces calcium carbonate

Acidification weakens and dissolves the structures formed by calcium carbonate, such as shells. The more acidic the ocean becomes, the faster the dissolution of the shells.

6. Marine life needs calcium carbonate

Calcium carbonate is critical for marine calcifying organisms such as coral reefs, zooplanktons, and shellfish. Calcium carbonate forms the skeleton of coral reefs and the shells protecting shellfish.

7. Coral reefs have declined by 50%

Coral reefs have declined by 50% in the past 50 years due to calcium carbonate deficiency. Coral reefs provide shelter for marine life. They protect coastal areas by breaking storms and waves. Tourism in coastal regions is also partly fueled by coral reefs in shallow waters. As the reefs die, tourism decreases.

8. Ocean acidification is affecting marine animals’ bodily functions

As the pH drops, the pH of the bodily fluids of most marine animals also drops. It takes energy for highly developed animals to adapt to the changes in pH levels. This energy deficiency affects other bodily functions, such as the formation of shells.

9. Acidification also leads to a decrease in the oxygen an animal can carry

Acidification affects reproduction by reducing the development and survivability of larvae and eggs. Consequently, affecting the survivability of marine species.

10. Over 3 billion people rely on the ocean for food

More than 3 billion people rely on the ocean to provide food in one way or another. The decrease in marine life leads to an increase in food prices. This impacts a world where food insecurity is already dire.

More Information About Ocean Acidification

11. The ocean’s pH level is declining 10 times faster

The ocean has undergone acidification before, with severe consequences for calcifying organisms. 56 million years ago, many coral species went extinct during the last acidification event. Today the pH level is declining ten times faster.

12. Acidity could increase by 150% by the end of the century

Should ocean acidification continue at the current rate, it will drop by 0.3-0.4 pH units by the end of the century. That is 150% more acidic.

13. We could witness an ecological collapse by the end of the century

The ocean may become inhospitable to marine life such as coral reefs and shellfish. This could result in ecological collapse by the end of the century.

14. Acidification could cost the world economy up to $1 trillion

The economic repercussions of acidification will cost up to 1 trillion dollars just for corals and mollusks alone.

15. It will take us hundreds of thousands of years to undo ocean acidification

The recovery of the oceans will take hundreds of thousands of years—potentially for as long as our species last. We might never see the oceans fully recover from this.

What Is the Leading Cause of Ocean Acidification?

Information about ocean acidification shows that ocean acidification is caused by increased absorption of carbon dioxide in the oceans. When carbon dioxide is absorbed into the seawater, it forms carbonic acid. This causes the release of hydrogen ions lowering the pH of the water.

The excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere comes from human activities, including burning fossil fuels and deforestation. The carbon dioxide then dissolves into the oceans, causing further acidification.

What Can Be Done To Stop Ocean acidification?

Ocean acidification statistics show that this is a severe problem. Fortunately, there is a way to stop ocean acidification. Cutting down global carbon dioxide emissions by reducing our dependence on fossil fuels can help prevent ocean acidification.

Consider making these changes to lower your carbon footprint:

  • Using renewable energy sources such as solar panels, wind turbines, and biofuels. These clean energy sources do not harm the environment.
  • Plant trees. Reforestation is also necessary as it will reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
  • Reusing and recycling everyday products such as water bottles. Less energy will be spent manufacturing and distributing products as a result.
  • Instead of fuel cars, use public transportation and electric cars. Walking and cycling are also great options.

These ocean acidification facts paint a picture of how serious this problem is. Without immediate action, human and marine life will be affected significantly. It is time for us to raise awareness and act against ocean acidification.


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  Stella - Writer

Stella is a writer and mother from Thika, Kenya.

Her love for nature and the beautiful Kenyan outdoors has inspired Stella to consciously make an effort to lead a more sustainable, eco-friendly lifestyle.