Ocean acidification is the name given to the ongoing decrease in the pH of the Earth's oceans, caused by their uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Between 1751 and 2004 surface ocean pH is estimated to have decreased from approximately 8.25 to 8.14.
In the natural carbon cycle, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) represents a balance of fluxes between the oceans, terrestrial biosphere and the atmosphere.
Human activities such as land-use changes and the combustion of fossil fuels have led to a new flux of CO2 into the atmosphere.
Some of this has remained in the atmosphere (where it is responsible for the rise in atmospheric concentrations), some is believed to have been taken up by terrestrial plants, and some has been absorbed by the oceans.
Although this oceanic absorption will help ameliorate the climatic effects of anthropogenic emissions of CO2, it is believed that it will have negative consequences for oceanic calcifying organisms.
These use the calcite or aragonite polymorphs of calcium carbonate to construct cell coverings or skeletons.
Calcifiers span the food chain from autotrophs to heterotrophs and include organisms such as coccolithophores, corals, foraminifera, echinoderms, crustaceans, and some mollusks, especially pteropods.