Throughout history, many laws and policies have been created on topics such as global warming and greenhouse gas emissions. Though many of these laws, such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Coastal Zone Management Act do influence ocean acidification, mitigating acidification was not a goal that was set forth when formulating these acts.
In the recent past, and today, ocean acidification has not been at the forefront of concern in terms of protecting the environment. One reason for this is that the topic is simply not as well known as others, such as global warming. Also, because we cannot physically see or feel the effects of ocean acidification (yet) people tend to be unaware of the presence of rising acidity in the sea. Therefore they might think of it as being less important than other environmental issues. When you jump into the ocean, it does not “feel” any more acidic, whereas you can observe climate changes and watch ice caps melting due to global warming.
When crafting policy about environmental preservation and conservation, ocean acidification and the sustainability of ocean ecosystem services should be considered. As research continues on the topic, we learn the effects that ocean acidification will have on our ecosystem, and therefore on the human race, and see why incorporating ocean acidification regulation into our policies and laws is of great importance.
First, incorporating ocean acidification into policy should be done because of the effects ocean acidification may have on the economy. Many people are economically dependent on organisms such as shellfish, clams, and coral reef that are negatively affected by acidification. Over half of the world’s population relies on services directly related to the ocean and without these services billions of dollars would be lost. People rely on the ocean as a food source, a source of income from the sale of products from the sea, as well as a purely beautiful place to visit. If ocean acidification is not mitigated through policy, many aspects of the ocean, and the world, will be lost or changed greatly. The economy and the welfare of many organisms, and therefore our way of life, are at risk.
Raised acidity in ocean waters limits organisms ability to calcify. On coral reefs this means that the skeletal growth of reef building organisms is hindered. Without these organisms, no coral reef structure can exist. Raised acidity also raises the potential for existing reefs to dissolve. Coral reefs are home to over 25% of all known species of fish and exhibit the highest biodiversity of any ecosystem in the entire ocean. Therefore, threats to coral reefs are a threat to thousands of other organisms.
Negative effects on coral reefs are just one example of what ocean acidification can do to ecosystems. To those who peer beneath the sea with a facemask, the exquisite beauty of the coral reef is evident. Ocean acidification is the silent killer that could profoundly affect a place of beauty and incalculable financial importance to our planet. Fisheries could collapse and famine could result. There are so many detrimental effects that can occur to the oceanic environment and the organisms that reside within it that the topic of ocean acidification should be integrated into policy decisions on environmental conservation and preservation.
1) R.P Kelly, M. M. Foley, W. S. Fisher, R. A. Freely, B. S. Halperin, G. G. Waldbusser, Science, 332, 1036 (2011).
2) “Chapter 3.” Ocean Acidification: a National Strategy to Meet the Challenges of a Changing Ocean. Washington, D.C.: National Academies, 2010. Print.
3) Eilperin, Juliet. “Growing Acidity of Oceans May Kill Corals.” The Washington Post: National, World & D.C. Area News and Headlines – The Washington Post. 5 July 2006. Web. 04 Sept. 2011. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/04/AR2006070400772.html