10 justifications ocean acidification is a serious concern

Ocean acidification (OA) is the process by which the ocean absorbs carbon dioxide (CO2). This process creates chemical reactions that reduce 1) seawater pH, 2) carbonate ion concentration, and 3) saturation states of biologically important calcium carbonate minerals (the minerals floating within the water column that many shellfish absorb to create stronger shells).

Here are 10 reasons OA is a serious concern. Keep in mind the science community has just begun to scratch the surface of OA impacts to the marine ecosystem and new findings are always being revealed.

  • OA is one of the greatest threats to marine biodiversity. Of particular concern are coral reefs which are the habitat of at least a quarter of all marine species.
  • Many marine organisms (e.g., reef building corals, shellfish) that produce calcium carbonate shells or skeletons are adversely affected by the increased absorption of CO2 levels and decreasing pH in seawater. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, “The effect is similar to osteoporosis, slowing growth and making shells weaker”.
  • Reef building corals, a ‘framework species’, are one species greatly affected by coral bleaching (a result of OA). Coral reefs are being destroyed twice as fast as rainforests. This is significant considering over $6.5B and 63,000 jobs are connected with tourism of the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Abnormally low pH levels in the seawater off the West coast of the US may be attributed to “near total failures of developing oysters in both aquaculture facilities and natural ecosystems”.
  • Before people started burning coal and oil, the pH of the ocean was essentially stable for the previous 20 million years. However, science predicts that by 2100 (less than 100 years!) OA will more than double if CO2 emissions continue at their current rate.
  • The ocean is absorbing the CO2 we are spewing into the atmosphere at the rate of, “22 million tons per day“.
  • The last time the world’s oceans acidified quickly (approximately 6.8 trillion tons of carbon entered the atmosphere over a period of 10,000 years) many deep-sea species went extinct. The cause is not known, but the result was a rise in temperature at least 5-9°C.
  • Strategies needed to combat OA are similar to those that are needed to combat global warming. In fact, OA is known as global warming equally evil twin.
  • To help combat OA you should conserve energy at every opportunity. This could include using the most efficient fuels for cars, trucks, airplanes, and ships.
  • According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “OA has the potential to seriously threaten the future health of the world’s oceans and the significant economic benefits they provide to humankind”.

This illustration depicts how less emissions can combat the effects of ocean acidification. 

Design on a dime … Underwater edition

Here is a little post inspired by all the HGTV I’ve been watching since becoming a homeowner.

Several species of crabs are considered ‘decorator crabs‘ because they conceal themselves with sponges, bryozoans, anemones, and other vegetation. The crabs will hold a piece of decoration against it shell until it begins to grow there. They are equipped with velcro-like bristles to keep their camouflage attached. Surprisingly enough, the decorations remain with the crab even when it sheds its exoskeleton. When the old shell splits, the vulnerable crustacean crawls out. The crab hides from predators while a new shell forms.

Image (c) thosenorthernskies.blogspot.com.

New ‘marine life encyclopedia’ launched

I think there might be another great bookmark to add to your ocean facts files! Please spend some time reviewing this great new resource, a marine life encyclopedia, compiled by Oceana. Over 500 creatures, places, and concepts can be explored. The pictures are bright and colorful and the information is up-to-date and easy to digest. It seems fantastic if you want a quick answer to a question.

Even if you think you know all the answers, test yourself with this Ocean IQ quiz!

The content on the marine life encyclopedia site has been licensed to Dorling Kindersley, one of the world’s leading educational publishers.

Linda Thornton, an inspiring aquaculturist on a mission for sustainability

If you’ve got some spare time this weekend, take some time to enjoy this fantastic documentary of one woman’s quest to transform shrimp aquaculture practices. Andrew Revkin of the New York Times helped produce this 16 minute documentary of Linda Thornton, a biologist who uprooted herself  from her home in Illinois to Belize, and set out to farm shrimp in a sustainable manner (for instance, without antibiotics). It is quite a story, filled with some sad moments as well as uplifting ones. She partners up with the World Wildlife Fund in an effort to create the first set of standards for sustainable aquaculture and is trying to get folks in the US to adopt the practices as well. Please enjoy and share your impressions of her quest. I find the most fascinating parts of the video to be the overview of her aquaculture facility and how it all fits together.
Bookmark and Share

Did you know that some lobsters are blue?

That’s right! American lobsters can be blue (rather than the brownish/green color they typically are prior to cooking) due to either a genetic modification or an abnormal diet. Both colored lobsters taste the same. One in every two million lobsters can be blue. Enjoy this funny video from the folks at CapeCast.

It’s as easy as A, B, Sea: C for Chitin

Chitin (kai-tin) is the main material for 1) the exoskeleton of shrimp, crabs and lobsters, 2) the beak of squid and octopi and 3) the radula of mollusks. It is very similar in make up to glucose and similar in function to keratin (which is what makes up our hair, skin and nails).

Take a guess! What do you think this lobsta weighs?

Image (c) Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.

Do you have another good question for the Beach Chair Scientist? Go to http://www.beachchairscientist.com and let us know. Or you can e-mail your question to info@beachchairscientist.com.

Ninja-like crustacean

Excerpt from the Blue Planet.

Do you have a question for the Beach Chair Scientist? e-mail info@beachchairscientist.com.

How did fiddler crabs get their name?

The male fiddler crabs have one claw that is much larger than the other. This extra large claw is shaped like a fiddle.fiddles 015

It is useful for two main reasons.

The first being that if waved in a certain manner it attracts some hot chicks, er, female fiddler crabs. The second is that it is a  useful tool for defense when other dudes like to create drama during mating season.

Do you have another great question? Check out www.beachchairscientist.com and enter let us know!

Image (c) decksfiddles.com

Do lobsters mate for life?

The male lobster is apparently quite the Casanova. Studies have shown that female lobsters tend to patiently wait in line outside of a male lobster’s den waiting for their turn to mate. One could say lobsters are apparently the ocean’s version of a rock star.

The males really do have all the right moves – for the brief time they do spend together, it is actually rather romantic…

Here is the scenario:

You see all lobsters have to molt (release their shells and grow a new one to be comfortable). Females can only mate right after molting. So, when she is ready to get comfortable in her new shell, the female releases a pheromone (a scent saying she is ready to get comfortable) into the male’s den.

The male then comes outside and the two of them have a boxing match with their claws. The female lets him win and places her claws on his head. Then they move into the den and – in a few hours or a few days – she molts. Then it is time to mate. After that she hangs out until her new shell is strong enough to protect herself – at which point she is ready to go and never looks back.

Do you have another great question? Check out www.beachchairscientist.com and let us know what you always ponder while digging your toes in the sand!