Essay on Ocean Acidification

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Ocean acidification is the biggest problem facing the planet with impacts so severe it affects almost all aspects of life. From tiny, microscopic phytoplankton, to Australia’s breathtaking Great Barrier Reef, ocean acidification has the power to wipe out great deals of life here on this Pale Blue Dot we call home. Of course, it is no surprise that at the root of this issue, lies the human population. As we continue to add to the carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, oceans absorb the carbon dioxide, becoming more acidic due to carbonic acid formation. This issue has been occurring since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, however, was just recently discovered, as it remains unheard of by too much of the population. Yet, the harsh reality is that if acidity proceeds to increase at current rates, the corals we know and admire are expected to be destroyed by the year 2048, less than thirty years from now. Not to mention, this will mean losing at least thirty percent of marine species. This is only, to say the least, and with our oceans acidifying and coral deteriorating to cause imbalanced ecosystems and socio-economic issues, it ultimately comes down to current students to develop a course of action. By the state mandating environmental education into required semester-long courses in our schools, the issues will be clearly understood to preserve our ecosystems, economy, and future.

One of the main victims of ocean acidification is our marine ecosystems and the organisms that play large roles in them. However, the impacts that ocean acidification brings are heavily misunderstood and unknown globally. For starters, small variations in the pH of seawater to more acidic conditions can have threatening effects on aquatic life, influencing the metabolism, reproduction, and overall growth of several species. Calcifying, or shell-building organisms, in particular, are especially sensitive to this acidity due to the chemical fluctuations in the water. As a result, these species have difficulty maintaining and forming their calcium carbonate shells and skeletal structures that they rely on for protection. According to Jennifer Bennett’s article, Ocean Acidification, this means that “Even if animals are able to build skeletons in more acidic water, they may have to spend more energy to do so, taking away resources from other activities like reproduction.” With that said, this is just one way in which changes in pH may negatively interfere with the ocean. Consequently, organisms must learn to be able to survive in such conditions. Unfortunately, while some species may be able to adapt well to these environments, many will suffer, and there will be no cure. Extinctions will become inevitable. And when it comes to discussing evolution, it doesn’t get any better. Marissa Wu, Operations Assistant at the Roundhouse Aquarium in Manhattan Beach, California states, “Evolution takes millions of years. If organisms cannot survive or adapt now, they will go into extinction and hence, will never evolve in order to adjust to the ocean’s worsening acidic conditions.” Though ocean acidification may not destroy all marine life, it will take an irreversible toll on species that are not equipped with the means to survive. As marine ecosystems continue to suffer unnoticed with threatening outcomes awaiting, it becomes clear that integrating environmental education into schools is the only way awareness can be spread widely and our ecosystems protected.

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With ecosystemic degradation, there also comes great impacts on the economy. Marine ecosystems provide humans with a multitude of vital goods and services, including food, recreation, and protection from coastal flooding. However, as ocean acidification continues to progress, many marine fisheries may be directly affected by altering the growth and survival of their target fish species, through the indirect changes in that species’ ecosystem. This will lead to alterations in the species' abundance as well as the size at the age at which they are harvested, resulting in an income decline from an economic standpoint. In the eBook titled, Ocean Acidification: A National Strategy to Meet the Challenges of a Changing Ocean, it is stated that “Although fisheries make a relatively small contribution to total economic activity at a national and international level, the impacts at the local and regional level and on particular user groups could be quite important. Further, the net impact on social benefits will depend on whether adequate projections are available to allow affected fisheries to plan for change, as well as the ability of those fishery participants and communities to adapt” (Chapter 5, Socioeconomic Concerns). This demonstrates that even though fisheries aren’t the main source of contribution to the economy, the impacts of ocean acidification can still create detriments for certain groups reliant on the harvest of fish for sustainable income. Needless to say, consumers will also be affected by these influences as well. For countries, such as the Maldives, that rely primarily on tourism as their main source of income, coral deterioration (also known as coral bleaching), from ocean acidification will cause their economies to suffer tremendously, as they are huge tourist attractions. Because climate change from excess carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere goes hand-in-hand with ocean acidification, corals that were once healthy and vibrant are beginning to die out. Madison Montgomery, author of the article, What You Need to Know About Ocean Acidification and How it Affects You declares that, “Without these reefs, coastal communities will lose an important source of income through the tourism industry.” On top of that, “Acidification also ruins tourism by attracting ‘nuisance species’ such as jellyfish.” Both of these factors as consequences of ocean acidity play large roles in driving tourists away from these destinations, harming the economy. Although not all of the globe’s countries are significantly affected, ocean acidification undoubtedly has negative impacts on the economies of various countries that are centered mainly on tourism and the harvest of distinct fish species as their means of income. By introducing these issues to the young minds of today’s students, our economies will regrow and regain their strength to preserve tourism and fish stations.

By stressing the devastating effects of ocean acidification on ecosystems and economies, current generations will work to solve these issues, providing for a better tomorrow. The only issue that remains is that today’s populations, especially youth, are not equipped with the knowledge and education of the ongoing environmental issues, ocean acidification being a major one. In fact, when asked in an online survey about how aware they were of ocean acidification and its effects, sixty-six out of ninety-one (about 73%) of the total surveyors aged thirteen and older answered that they were uninformed and oblivious to this subject matter. On a down-scaled sample of the global public, this piece of quantitative data emphasizes just how unfamiliar the vast majority of the human population is with this serious environmental problem. This makes it undeniably evident that environmental education is a vital key prerequisite to provide the deep knowledge and understanding all individuals need to make informed decisions when it comes to preserving Earth’s future. Unfortunately, raising awareness of ocean acidification is easier said than done. Being a complicated global issue, ocean acidification brings a lot of controversies and a wide range of opinions and beliefs. The article, Impacts of Ocean Acidification on Marine Ecosystems: Educational Challenges and Innovations argues that, ”...The more complex the environmental problem, and thus more difficult to communicate, the less likely information about the problem at hand will affect individuals’ behavior. Secondly, citizens’ attitudes and beliefs are resistant to change since the public tends to engage in motivated reasoning where they dismiss evidence challenging their prior belief and favor supportive evidence.” With that said, it is extremely difficult to alter one’s ideology once they have already developed clear thoughts and interpretations of the endless list of environmental problems our world is currently facing. However, by presenting these issues in schools starting at young ages, the large lack of knowledge regarding issues of the environment will be eliminated and behavioral changes will begin to be seen in the human race. This will ultimately lead to a healthier, brighter future for the many generations to follow.

At the end of the day, ocean acidification will not solve itself, and if it continues to progress at the rate it has been occurring, planet Earth will never be the same. It truly comes down to the developing minds of today’s students to set out and take action against these threatening environmental issues, especially ocean acidification. By the state mandating environmental education into required semester-long courses in our schools, the problems will be clearly understood to preserve our ecosystems, economy, and most importantly, our future. If these efforts are not put into place, we must be prepared to say a heart-wrenching farewell to the many remarkable species that make our oceans uniquely beautiful and welcome them into the pages of our future history books.

Works Cited

  1. Bennett, Jennifer. “Ocean Acidification.” Smithsonian, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, April 2018. Web. 17 May 2019.
  2. Brown, Steve. Personal Interview. 5 May 2019. Committee on the Development of an Integrated Science Strategy for Ocean Acidification Monitoring, Research, and Impacts Asse.
  3. Ocean Acidification : A National Strategy to Meet the Challenges of a Changing Ocean. National Academies Press, 2010. Web. 10 May 2019. format=EB&rid=1
  4. Fauville, G., et al. 'Impact of Ocean Acidification on Marine Ecosystems: Educational Challenges and Innovations.' Marine Biology, vol. 160, no. 8, Aug. 2013. Web. 9 May 2019.
  5. Haigh, Rowan, et al. 'Effects of Ocean Acidification on Temperate Coastal Marine Ecosystems and Fisheries in the Northeast Pacific.' PLoS ONE, vol. 10, no. 2, Feb. 2015. Web. 9 May 2019.
  6. Halligan, Kevin. Personal Interview. 4 May 2019.
  7. Hilmi, Nathalie, et al. 'Towards Improved Socio-Economic Assessments of Ocean Acidification's Impacts.' Marine Biology, vol. 160, no. 8, Aug. 2013. Web. 7 May 2019.
  8. Kawai, Sammy. The Effects of Ocean Acidification. 30 April 2019. Online Survey.
  9. Montgomery, Madison. “What You Need to Know About Ocean Acidification and How it Affects You.” One Green Planet, 2014. Web. 18 May 2019.
  10. Noonan, Sam H. C., et al. 'Ocean Acidification Alters Early Successional Coral Reef Communities and Their Rates of Community Metabolism.' PLoS ONE, vol. 13, no. 5, May 2018. Web. 7 May 2019.
  11. Wu, Marissa. Personal Interview. 4 May 2019.
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Essay on Ocean Acidification. (2023, April 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 26, 2024, from
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