Ocean acidification and how it impacts oysters

Among the many factors polluting our oceans, the carbon dioxide released into the oceanic waters is the major reason. The carbon dioxide, when dissolved in the waters of our seas, result in a lower pH level, which turns the ocean water more acidic. Termed ocean acidification, this process cause harm to marine life like oysters and plankton.

Today let us try and understand what ocean identification means, its causes, and how it affects the lives of oysters.

What is ocean acidification?

Ocean acidification is a process that naturally occurs where the pH levels of the oceanic waters go down, resulting in the acidic nature of the water. While the natural process happens at pretty long intervals, owing to human intervention and human industries, the process is now hastened and has been impacting marine life like never before.

During the process of acidification, the amount of carbonate in the ocean water is reduced. Carbonate is the most important element in seawater, and when the level of carbonate goes down, it naturally harms the ecosystem in the ocean. The marine life like plankton and coral find it hard to retain their shell and to form a new shell in such conditions. The same problem applies to the oysters as well.

What causes ocean acidification?

When the CO2 increases in the atmosphere, it is absorbed by the ocean as a natural process. But with increased levels of CO2 in the air, the ocean tends to absorb more, which results in the acidification of the ocean water.

The reason for increased CO2 levels in the atmosphere can be attributed to the burning of fossil fuels, land-use changes

Ocean acidification and oysters

Studies indicate that the mortality rates of the oyster larvae are high owing to ocean acidification. The studies are further proven true when you look at the losses suffered by the Oyster industry in recent years.

As mentioned before, the formation of shells becomes increasingly difficult for organisms in the water that is rich in carbon dioxide. While the adult oysters can survive but through a slow growth process, the larvae struggle to survive in waters with a high concentration of carbon dioxide.

Studies also indicate that it is not just the dissolving of the shells, which is an issue. Rather studies show that the high levels of CO2 impact the rate of formation of these shells, usage of energy to form a shell, which is why the younger larvae of the oysters are the most affected.

Other effects of ocean acidification

If you are wondering why this would be an impact on us, then you might want to consider the below points.

  • Ocean acidification has a huge impact on the food we absorb from the sea. The seafood, especially the ones with shells like oysters, could well be heading towards extinction.
  • With coral reefs getting impacted with the acidification, there is lesser protection to many shorelines
  • The climate changes also surge out of control, with oceans having reduced capacity to absorb oxygen.

There is also an argument that the concentration of carbon dioxide helps certain organisms while not benefiting others. Irrespective of whether the impact of ocean acidification is positive or negative, it is not in favor of oysters, nor is it in favor of the changing climatic conditions globally.