Global climate change affects everything on the planet from the land to the sea. The oceans have been changing for at least the past 30 years due to increasing global temperatures. This affects many things, like the seasonality of sea ice and the organisms living in the oceans to the increases in ocean levels and the CO2 in the oceans.
The increase in temperature is causing the sea ice to melt and change. This is a feeding and breeding place of many artic marine animals. For example the penguin populations depend on the ice to breed and to forage for food. The Adélie penguin population has shown a decrease in numbers with this increase in temperatures. Many marine animals will have to change where they find their food and where they will breed because of the changing ice patterns. On the other hand some organisms are thriving under the increase in temperature like the humpback whale. With some species suffering and others thriving current research finds that reduced biodiversity will result.
One way that warming sea surface temperatures harm marine life is the destruction of the coral reefs. Coral Bleaching occurs when coral is stressed by changes in its environment. Climate change is one of the biggest threats to coral reef ecosystems. An increase or decrease in temperature can send coral into coral bleaching and infectious diseases are more frequent. The coral bleaching does not kill the coral but it does put it under stress and if this goes on for too long the coral can die. In 2005 in the Caribbean half of the coral reefs were lost due to an increase in temperature. The increase in temperatures also effected other marine life directly and indirectly. Directly because some species bodies cant function under the temperature increase. Indirectly because with the coral dying they can no longer find food or have a home. This stress was greater than any that had been recorded in the past 20 years.
Ocean acidification is linked to temperature increases around the globe because a CO2 increase in the atmosphere is directly linked to this temperature increase. Ocean acidification occurs when CO2 is absorbed by sea water. This results in a reduction of the oceans pH, saturation conditions of calcium carbonate minerals, and carbonate ion concentration. So far the oceans pH has fallen by 0.1 pH units. If the CO2 levels in the atmosphere don’t change the ocean will continue to absorb it. Ocean acidification of especially bad for the calcifying species. These species are the basic building block of most food webs in the ocean. The shells for these organisms will slowly dissolve when in lower pH. Below is a picture of a shell after being put in the estimated pH of the oceans from 2100.
(Photo credit: David Liittschwager/National Geographic Stock.)
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