Friday, November 26, 2010
The Environmental Protection Agency has recommended that states begin identifying coastal waters impaired by ocean acidification. The idea is to find how pollution is affecting marine life.
When oceans absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, they become more acidic.
The carbon comes mostly from humans burning things to create energy.
The EPA wants coastal states to start tracking how carbon dioxide may affect the ocean ecosystem.
Under the Clean Water Act, if waters are impaired, the federal agency can require action to stop the source of pollution.
At certain levels, the acidic water can hurt marine ecosystems and prevent some ocean creatures, like shellfish, from building protective shells.
Andrew Dickson is a professor of marine chemistry with UC San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
"There's probably a limited amount of research thus far that shows deleterious effects at current levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere," said Dickson.
He said there is research that examines what carbon dioxide levels in the ocean could be at the end of the century.
Dickson said exposing marine life to seawater at those levels shows definite effects on their development.
The EPA wants states to develop ways to measure the effects of ocean acidification on marine life.
But Dickson said tracking the ocean acidification is not that simple.
"It's difficult to distinguish between changes in water circulation and the added carbon dioxide coming in from the atmosphere," Dickson said.