Ocean Acidification Causes, Effects, & Examples: Top 10 List

December 3, 2016 in Animals & Insects, Geology & Climate

Ocean acidification is the process by which oceanic waters progressively become more and more acidic, mostly as a result of absorption of atmospheric carbon dioxide. To put that another way, as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels increase, the process of ocean acidification will increase as well. To a point anyways.

Acidic in this case is actually something of a slight misnomer, though, as the “acidification” is actually more of a move to pH-neutral conditions, from the generally slightly basic (pH >7) condition’s of the earth’s oceans.

This move to pH-neutral conditions will have a profound impact on the myriad lifeforms found within the oceans though, as witnessed during previous ocean acidification events such as “The Great Dying” (~252 million years ago), rather than being a trivial process.

Impacts that can be reliably expected are: major changes to plankton distribution, types, and numbers; increasingly common mass coral bleaching events; associated extinctions; depressed metabolic rates and immunity in some types of marine animals, as well as behavioral changes; fishery collapses; and increasingly common red tide events.

To go back over that earlier point a bit more — seawater is generally slightly basic (pH>7), as it absorbs carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, or from elsewhere (carbon seeps, etc), some of the absorbed CO2 reacts to form carbonic acid (H2CO3), and leads as well to carbonate (HCO3−) and bicarbonate (CO32−) formation. The carbonate and bicarbonate formation results in increased hydrogen ion (H+) concentrations in the ocean water (acidity) — as they are the “leftovers” of the formation process.
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Ocean Acidification Effects, Causes, & Examples List Part 2

December 3, 2016 in Animals & Insects, Geology & Climate

(This is Part 2 of the Ocean Acidification Causes, Effects, & Examples: Top 10 List, which had to be split in order to load properly. Click through to that article to read the introduction, and items 1 through 4 of the list.)

Algae bloom red ocean

Increase In Red Tide Events

A likely co-occurrence with increasing ocean acidification will be increasingly common red tide events. That is, increasingly common and extensive blooms of the various dinoflagellates responsible for “red tides.”

An increase in these events will of course see an increase in the accumulation of associated toxins (domoic acid, saxitoxin, brevetoxin) in marine animals — and thus an increase in the marine mass mortality events that accompany this. Also, paralytic and neurotoxic shellfish poisoning will become more common as well.
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Antarctica & Climate Change, What Would A Greened Antarctica Look Like? – Plants Of Prehistoric Antarctica, Meyer Desert Formation Biota, & Speculation On The Future

November 24, 2016 in Geology & Climate, Plants

Antarctica is an alien world in some ways. While many of the animals that visit its shores, or live on them, are recognizable, as are the plants, lichens, and algae there as well, the sheer intemperate quality of the place leads to blunt rearrangement of “ordinary” circumstance — with the place seeming familiar in many ways, but with a sense of strangeness and chance to it that isn’t found in many other parts of the world at this point.

A place where it’s too cold and dry for much to grow other than organisms that could possibly do well even if they were left on a literally alien world — extremophile microbes, various though types of lichen, fungi, pink algae, etc.

The continent hasn’t always been this way though. Even as recently as 3-4 million years ago there were patches of forest remaining in isolated areas, before eventually being subsumed completely by the ice sheets. Leaving the desert-like place that the interior of Antarctica now is.

Anthropogenic climate change will be changing this over the coming centuries and millennia though, though to what degree is up for debate — with the melting of West Antarctica seemingly being inevitable at this point, and the melting of large tracts (or all) of East Antarctica seemingly now a real possibility.

Presuming a ‘business as usual’ path is followed, as far as cumulative emissions go, to the close of the century, it should take an estimated ~400,000 years for all of the carbon dioxide that will be released into the atmosphere as a result of industrial human activity to be removed, and for the weather and climate to settle back into their own patterns. (This estimate incorporates what’s known about various feedback loops, such as permafrost melting and methane release, as well as the way the carbon cycle has responded in prehistory to various associated factors.)
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Climate Change & Antarctica, The Future Return Of Antarctic Flora, & New Arrivals (Part 2)

November 24, 2016 in Animals & Insects, Geology & Climate, Plants

(This article had to be split in two so that it wouldn’t crash, the preface and a discussion of the plants of prehistoric Antarctica can be found here: Antarctica & Climate Change, What Would A Greened Antarctica Look Like? – Plants Of Prehistoric Antarctica, Meyer Desert Formation Biota, & Speculation On The Future).

The Future Of Antarctic Flora — Plants That Are Likely To Colonize Antarctica And/Or To Possibly Do Well If Introduced

As the “soil” will be quite poor initially, what will be likely is that plants that do well in poor and rapidly draining soils, and also in wet soils, where water stagnates or only flows slowly, rather than draining well, will be among those that have the easiest time spreading in Antarctica. In other words, the sorts of plants that do well in Arctic tundra, particularly in the very poor soils of most of Canada, and much of Siberia. With that in mind, I’ll kick this off with sedges. (For poor, rapidly draining soils, see the section on cushion plants below.)
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Lichen Growth Patterns, Antarctica, & The Future Of The Anthropogenic World

November 14, 2016 in Geology & Climate, Humans, Plants

Antarctic lichen white

The lichen in the image above presents an interesting visual doesn’t it? Rapid growth outwards with death spreading from the origination point in the center as well, following at a regular pace behind the spread of new growth. Probably one of the most fundamental patterns in the universe, especially with regards to “life.”
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