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Page added on December 29, 2009

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Acidic oceans: The 'evil twin' of warming

Seas absorb CO2 but that stunts some coral, other skeletal marine life

MONTEREY BAY NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY, Calif. – If the world ever does get around to significantly reducing carbon emissions, the sea lions, harbor seals and sea otters reposing along the shoreline and kelp forests of this protected marine area will be among the beneficiaries.

These foragers of the sanctuary’s frigid waters, flipping in and out of sight of California’s coastal kayakers, may not seem like obvious beneficiaries. But reducing carbon emissions worldwide also would help mend a lesser-known environmental problem: ocean acidification.

Oceans absorb about 25 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases pumped into the atmosphere from human activities each year, helping to take off some warming pressure.

But carbon dissolving in oceans also forms carbonic acid, raising waters’ acidity that damages all manner of hard-shelled creatures, and setting off a chain reaction that threatens the food chain supporting marine life, including the lumbering sea mammals along the 276-mile coast of the California sanctuary and the rest of the U.S. West Coast.


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