Environmental Studies Paper

Question

Complete the Ocean Acidification Online Activity at

http://virtuallabs.stanford.edu/

In a short paper, describe your findings and what you learned from completing this exercise. Be as specific as possible.

Answer

Title: Response to an Online Activity: “Our Acidifying Ocean”

I have learned many things after completing the Ocean Acidification Online Activity titled “Our Acidifying Ocean”. Firstly, it is worthwhile to point out that the ocean covers two thirds of the earth’s surface (National Science Foundation). However, it is evident that human beings are slowly but surely changing the ocean’s chemistry. The level of carbon dioxide in the air is rising due to human activity such as the burning of fossil fuels. This increase has adverse effects such as global warming and ocean acidification. The pH (level of Hydrogen ions, H+) of the ocean has been fluctuating over the centuries from a mean of 8.0 to the current 8.3, representing a 30% increase in the acidity of the ocean.

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Normally, gases in the air and those in the water exist in a state of equilibrium. Evidence obtained from the online activity shows that as carbon dioxide increases, it mixes with water molecules to form carbonic acid which breaks down into bicarbonate and carbonate molecules (National Science Foundation). The increase in the concentration of hydrogen ions and decrease the pH of the ocean results in a more acidic ocean environment. Due to less calcium carbonate, there’s also a reduction in the rate of calcification, which is the process by which organisms form shells and other structures. The reduced pH also leads to slower growth of organisms. Among sea creatures, Echinoderms have been affected the most by the increasing acidity due to the reduced levels of magnesium calcite, a form of calcium carbonate they use to make their internal shells and which is highly sensitive to acidification.

Lastly, the Ocean Acidification Online Activity offers insightful findings of a study on how sea urchin larval growth is being affected by acidified sea water. The study showed that a drop in pH causes larval arms of sea urchins to be shorter, thus, rendering the organisms incapable of feeding as effectively as they should and subsequently slowing down their growth in addition to their increasing their vulnerability to predators. For these reasons, urgent measures need to be taken to mitigate the ominous threat of ocean acidification.

 

Works Cited

National Science Foundation. Ocean Acidification Online Activity: Our Acidifying Ocean. Stanford: Stanford University, 2015. Web.

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