Report

Rapid Progression of Ocean Acidification in the California Current System

Science  13 Jul 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6091, pp. 220-223
DOI: 10.1126/science.1216773

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Acidification Blues

The increase in the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide threatens the health of the ocean's ecosystems because of the resulting acidification of the ocean and the decrease in its carbonate saturation state. Gruber et al. (p. 220, published online 14 June) used a regional ocean model to project how the saturation state of aragonite, a form of calcium carbonate that is produced by many marine organisms, will change in the California Current System through the year 2050. The sea floor along many parts of the California coast is likely to become exposed to year-round aragonite undersaturation within the next 20 to 30 years, a situation that could severely reduce the range of habitats for marine shellfish.

Abstract

Nearshore waters of the California Current System (California CS) already have a low carbonate saturation state, making them particularly susceptible to ocean acidification. We used eddy-resolving model simulations to study the potential development of ocean acidification in this system up to the year 2050 under the Special Report on Emissions Scenarios A2 and B1 scenarios. In both scenarios, the saturation state of aragonite Ωarag is projected to drop rapidly, with much of the nearshore region developing summer-long undersaturation in the top 60 meters within the next 30 years. By 2050, waters with Ωarag above 1.5 will have largely disappeared, and more than half of the waters will be undersaturated year-round. Habitats along the sea floor will become exposed to year-round undersaturation within the next 20 to 30 years. These projected events have potentially major implications for the rich and diverse ecosystem that characterizes the California CS.

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