Climate Change Alters Ocean Chemistry

Stanford, CA— Researchers have discovered that the ocean’s chemical makeup is less stable and more greatly affected by climate change than previously believed. The researchers report in the December 12, 2008 issue of Science* that during a time of climate change 13 million years ago the chemical makeup of the oceans changed dramatically.

The researchers warn that the chemical composition of the ocean today could be similarly affected by climate changes now underway – with potentially far-reaching consequences for marine ecosystems. “As CO2 increases and weather patterns shift, the chemical composition of our rivers will change, and this will affect the oceans,” says co-author Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology. “This will change the amount of calcium and other elements in ocean salts.”
Calcium-bearing rocks such as limestone are the largest storehouse of carbon in the Earth’s carbon cycle because they are primarily made up of calcium carbonate. “The ocean’s calcium cycle is closely linked to atmospheric carbon dioxide and the processes that control seawater’s acidity,” says Caldeira. Acidification of seawater is already a growing threat to coral reefs and other marine life.
– Source: Carnegie Institution