Studies show it interferes with shell formation; North
Atlantic has highest levels; Separate report suggests new approach to
July 16, 2004: The world's oceans not only have fewer fish
these days, but carbon dioxide pollution threatens the survival of
shellfish, coral and other hard-bodied sea animals, researchers said in
three studies released today.
"The chemistry of seawater is changing in dramatic ways
and it's having a significant impact on organisms that live in the water,"
said Richard Feely, a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration in Seattle who studied carbon dioxide's effect on marine
Meanwhile, another group of international scientists
called for overhauling management of the world's fisheries, citing
declining fish populations.
Taken together, the reports in today's issue of the
journal Science paint a bleak picture of the oceans' ability to sustain
current levels of aquatic life.
Numerous studies have documented how rising carbon dioxide
levels - largely from the burning of fossil fuels - are affecting climate,
human health and vegetation. But scientists are just beginning to
understand their effect on the seas.
"Up until recently, the ocean's ability to take up so much
carbon dioxide has been seen as a good thing, but it's becoming increasing
apparent it can also have adverse effects," said Ken Caldeira, a
researcher at California's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
In its research, NOAA analyzed 72,000 ocean water samples
collected by scientists around the world between 1989 and 1998.
One study found that since 1800, the oceans have absorbed
118 billion metric tons of carbon, making the seas a "sink" for half the
fossil fuel emissions since the dawn of the industrial revolution. And 1.9
billion tons of carbon are being added each year, scientists said.
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