Skip to content

• Impact of Acidification

• Impact of Acidification

Climate change is a global phenomenon driven by human-caused activities that have dramatically increased the rate of greenhouse gas emissions and resulting global warming. One of the by-products of this unprecedented increase in pollution is acidification—the process of increasing the acidity of the environment. Acidification refers to a decline in pH levels across terrestrial, water and coastal ecosystems. This has wide-ranging consequences for species, habitats and ecosystems around the world. In this article, we will explore the varying impacts of acidification, as well as its far-reaching implications for the environment and public health.

• Impact of Acidification

The Science Behind Acidification

Acidification occurs when acid-forming compounds such as carbon dioxide (CO2) enter the atmosphere and are subsequently absorbed by the ocean. In turn, the dissolving CO2 contributes to the formation of carbonic acid, thereby depleting the pH of the ocean. This process is further accelerated by nitrogen inputs from farming, changes in the alkalinity and buffering of the ocean, as well as other localized activities, such as acid mine drainage.

Impacts on the Environment

The impacts of acidification on the environment are both pervasive and immediate. Acidity directly affects different species in different ways, generally based on the tolerance of each group. For example, invertebrate organisms with shells (such as mollusks, crustaceans and corals) are especially sensitive to the impacts of acidification, because their shells are composed of calcium carbonate, which will dissolve over time as the ocean’s pH decreases. As a result, these species have seen population declines in some cases. Meanwhile, fish and plankton populations have experienced die-offs, as their respiratory and metabolic systems are impacted by acidification.

Implications for Public Health

The far-reaching implications of acidification extend to public health as well. Studies have linked rising acidity levels with increases in enteric diseases, such as cholera, as well as algal blooms that can result in liver and neurological disorders. Furthermore, acidified and oxygen-depleted waters are often barren, resulting in a lack of biodiversity that can impede the ability of coastal ecosystems to adequately absorb and filter contaminants from the water. This has wide-ranging implications when it comes to the safety of recreational waterways and can lead to elevated levels of pollutants, such as mercury, arsenic and lead in the food chain.

The Role of the Public

Acidification is an increasingly virulent issue, yet there are still opportunities for the public to reduce its worsening effects. Reducing emissions of acid-forming compounds, such as dioxide (CO2) is paramount, as this is the primary source of acidification. Investing in renewable energy sources and sustainable practices are a great place to start. Furthermore, switching to sustainable products, such as chemical-free fertilizers, cleaning supplies and other such items can also help reduce inputs of nitrogen and other substances that contribute to acidification.

Climate change induced acidification has had a dramatic and far reaching impact on ecosystems across the globe. Marine organisms are particularly sensitive to changes in pH levels, as many species are ill equipped to deal with increasingly acidic waters. Meanwhile, acidification has profound implications for public health, as it can lead to the contamination of recreational waterways and the food chain. To mitigate these effects, it is imperative that individuals reduce their carbon output, invest in sustainable practices and switch to pollution-reducing products. In doing so, we can take steps towards mitigating the acidification of our oceans and its ensuing impacts on biodiversity and public health.

Other Interesting Topics:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *