Acid Ocean: End of Days

Earth’s largest extinction happened about 252 million years ago. The Permian-Triassic extinction, also known as the Great Dying, destroyed around 96 percent of all marine species and 70 percent of the terrestrial vertebrates. Recent studies at the University of Edinburgh have revealed acidic oceans to be the culprits behind this large extinction of biological life.

Acidic oceans were a result of frequent and great volcanic eruptions that caused most of the marine species to disappear from the face of the planet.

The research at the Edinburgh University was based on the study of rocks from United Arab Emirates; these rocks conserved a specific evidence of varying oceanic conditions of the time. Researchers think that the huge volcanic eruptions in Siberia produced large clouds of carbon dioxide which was soaked up by the oceans resulting in them becoming acidic.

According to studies the Earth’s oceans were very alkaline in the beginning, shielding them from the initial carbon emissions but frequent volcanic eruptions produced so much CO2 in such a short span of time that the oceans were not even able to absorb all of it, and acidic levels of the oceans are believed to have catapulted within a short period of 10,000 years.

As you know the lower pH levels make water become further acidic and acidic waters reduce calcification rates in many calcifying organisms such as clamps, shrimps, crabs and other shell fishes which hinder their natural process to build shells or skeletons. Many species who survive on these shell fishes for their food have been impacted due to ocean acidification. Another concern is that build up of acid in the body fluids of marine species can interrupt growth and reproduction.

The latest research findings are helping scientists recognize the danger posed to marine life by present-day ocean acidification. But today the scenario has changed, instead of volcanoes human activities has resulted in oceans becoming more acidic. The burning of fossil fuels causes the greatest emission of carbon dioxide and possesses a greater threat for marine life.

The present day acidification is leading our planet to a similar disaster, and this research is helping scientists to understand the effects of the greenhouse gases on the oceans, which is going to help them to take initiatives towards preventing related disasters in future.