Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Unprecedented rate and scale of ocean acidification found in the Arctic

Date:
September 12, 2013
Source:
U.S. Geological Survey
Summary:
Acidification of the Arctic Ocean is occurring faster than projected, according to new findings. The increase in rate is being blamed on rapidly melting sea ice, a process that may have important consequences for health of the Arctic ecosystem.

This picture of the sun over the Arctic Ocean was taken from atop the bridge over the bow of the USCG Cutter Healy.
Credit: Jonathan Wynn, University of South Florida

Acidification of the Arctic Ocean is occurring faster than projected, according to new findings published in the journal PLoS ONE. The increase in rate is being blamed on rapidly melting sea ice, a process that may have important consequences for health of the Arctic ecosystem.

Related Articles


Ocean acidification is the process by which pH levels of seawater decrease due to greater amounts of carbon dioxide being absorbed by the oceans from the atmosphere. Currently oceans absorb about one-fourth of the greenhouse gas. Lower pH levels make water more acidic and lab studies have shown that more acidic water decrease calcification rates in many calcifying organisms, reducing their ability to build shells or skeletons. These changes, in species ranging from corals to shrimp, have the potential to impact species up and down the food web.

The team of federal and university researchers found that the decline of sea ice in the Arctic summer has important consequences for the surface layer of the Arctic Ocean. As sea ice cover recedes to record lows, as it did late in the summer of 2012, the seawater beneath is exposed to carbon dioxide, which is the main driver of ocean acidification.

In addition, the freshwater melted from sea ice dilutes the seawater, lowering pH levels and reducing the concentrations of calcium and carbonate, which are the constituents, or building blocks, of the mineral aragonite. Aragonite and other carbonate minerals make up the hard part of many marine micro-organisms' skeletons and shells. The lowering of calcium and carbonate concentrations may impact the growth of organisms that many species rely on for food.

The new research shows that acidification in surface waters of the Arctic Ocean is rapidly expanding into areas that were previously isolated from contact with the atmosphere due to the former widespread ice cover.

"A remarkable 20 percent of the Canadian Basin has become more corrosive to carbonate minerals in an unprecedented short period of time. Nowhere on Earth have we documented such large scale, rapid ocean acidification" according to lead researcher and ocean acidification project chief, U.S. Geological Survey oceanographer Lisa Robbins.

Globally, Earth's ocean surface is becoming acidified due to absorption of human-made carbon dioxide. Ocean acidification models show that with increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide, the Arctic Ocean will have crucially low concentrations of dissolved carbonate minerals, such as aragonite, in the next decade.

"In the Arctic, where multi-year sea ice has been receding, we see that the dilution of seawater with melted sea ice adds fuel to the fire of ocean acidification" according to co-author, and co-project chief, Jonathan Wynn, a geologist from the University of the South Florida. "Not only is the ice cover removed leaving the surface water exposed to human-made carbon dioxide, the surface layer of frigid waters is now fresher, and this means less calcium and carbonate ions are available for organisms."

Researchers were able to investigate seawater chemistry at high spatial resolution during three years of research cruises in the Arctic, alongside joint U.S.-Canada research efforts aimed at mapping the seafloor as part of the U.S. Extended Continental Shelf program. In addition to the NOAA supported ECS ship time, the ocean acidification researchers were funded by the USGS, National Science Foundation, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by U.S. Geological Survey. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Lisa L. Robbins, Jonathan G. Wynn, John T. Lisle, Kimberly K. Yates, Paul O. Knorr, Robert H. Byrne, Xuewu Liu, Mark C. Patsavas, Kumiko Azetsu-Scott, Taro Takahashi. Baseline Monitoring of the Western Arctic Ocean Estimates 20% of Canadian Basin Surface Waters Are Undersaturated with Respect to Aragonite. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (9): e73796 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0073796

Cite This Page:

U.S. Geological Survey. "Unprecedented rate and scale of ocean acidification found in the Arctic." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 September 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130912132130.htm>.
U.S. Geological Survey. (2013, September 12). Unprecedented rate and scale of ocean acidification found in the Arctic. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 27, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130912132130.htm
U.S. Geological Survey. "Unprecedented rate and scale of ocean acidification found in the Arctic." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130912132130.htm (accessed February 27, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, February 27, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Winter Storm Means Dangerous Driving in South

Winter Storm Means Dangerous Driving in South

AP (Feb. 26, 2015) A new winter storm is stretching across the south, making travel treacherous throughout the region. (Feb. 26) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New York City Surrounded by Ice Floes

New York City Surrounded by Ice Floes

AP (Feb. 25, 2015) The freezing temperatures that have plagued much of the eastern U.S. haven&apos;t spared New York City. The waterways around the island of Manhattan are filled with ice. (Feb. 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Widespread Flooding in Northern Bolivia

Raw: Widespread Flooding in Northern Bolivia

AP (Feb. 25, 2015) Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Garcia surveyed severe flood damage in the northern province of Pando, as people were evacuated from partially submerged houses by boat. (Feb. 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Amazon Keeps Its Green Thanks To The Sahara Desert

The Amazon Keeps Its Green Thanks To The Sahara Desert

Newsy (Feb. 25, 2015) Satellite data shows the Amazon rainforest supports its lush flora with a little help from Sahara Desert dust. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins