Keep the Oceans Sweet

Aug 03, 2021|14Life Below Water

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Let's keep oceans sweet! No, not sweet like candy but looking and feeling sweet, clean, and awesome for generations to come. How? Well, one of the targets from the UN Sustainable Goal 14, "Life Under Water," focuses on minimizing and addressing the impacts of ocean acidification. 

What is Ocean Acidification? 

According to NASA, Ocean acidification is a change in the properties of ocean water that can be harmful to plants and animals.

Ocean acidification happens when the water quality is compromised due to increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Our oceans are like giant sponges that work hard cleaning and purifying our air. However, sometimes our air is saturated with carbon dioxide (Co2), making it harder for the oceans to clean and air and remain unchanged. When this happens, and the ocean becomes acidic, the water is no longer safe to sustain life or proposes a danger to its organisms. 

Why is Acidic Water Unsafe for Organisms

Different organisms thrive in different environments. We now know life can happen even in the most hospitable places like the very bottom of the deep ocean. However, drastic changes in the ecosystem can negatively affect the flora and fauna that live there. 

An acid is any substance that, when combined with water, can cause chemical reactions when they touch metal, rocks, coral, or other surfaces. The chemical reactions are known for eating away at, dissolving, or damaging other substances. For example, lemon juice and vinegar have acids in them. The acid in lime juice is what makes it taste sour. Lime juice is used in some cultures to 'cook' food, like ceviche. This process of cooking with the acid of the lime is called "denaturation of proteins."

Likewise, acids can also break down the shells of animals that live under the sea. When ocean water has become more acidic, some animals — like oysters and clams — struggle to make or keep their shells.

Acidic ocean water can also damage coral by slowing down its growth process or weaken the existing coral reefs. Coral reefs are essential, as they serve as the home for many plants and animals. Thus, coral reef's health is vital to many ecosystems.

How Do You Know if the Water is Acidic?

The acidity level of a substance can be measured using the pH scale. The pH scale range goes from 0 - 14, with 7 being neutral. Anything with a pH higher than 7 is called a base.

How do everyday substances measure on the pH scale? 

  • 0: Battery Acid
  • 1: Stomach Acid
  • 2: Vinegar
  • 3: Orange Juice
  • 4: Tomato Juice
  • 5: Coffee
  • 6: Milk
  • 7: Pure Water
  • 8: Ocean Water 
  • 9: Toothpaste
  • 10: Mild detergent
  • 11: Window cleaner
  • 12: Hair straighteners
  • 13: Bleach
  • 14: Drain Cleaner

How Can We Reduce Ocean Acidification?

Since carbon dioxide is the main culprit to ocean acidification, the best way to prevent it is by reducing our carbon footprint. Each of us leaves a carbon footprint; This is determined by the amount of meat we consume, the amount of miles we travel by car or air, and how much waste we produce. 

Every little action can help, so a few small changes at home can have a significant impact on the health of our oceans, start by:

  • Eating less meat: Meatless Mondays are a fun way to introduce less meat into your diet. There are many easy and delicious plant-based meals you can try every Monday. 
  • Use less energy at home: yes! Your parents are right! Make sure you turn off light bulbs and electronics when you are not using them. 
  • Conserve water: Take shorter and colder showers and be conscious about the amount of water you use at home to water your plants, brush your teeth, or do the dishes. 
  • Reduce single-use plastic consumption: By using reusable water bottles and taking your own reusable containers to the restaurants for leftovers. 
  • Educate everyone about the dangers of ocean acidification and how to prevent it from happening. 

 

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Thinking Cap On: 

Do some research about the impact of ocean acidification, focusing on a specific part of the ocean/world. Once you have gathered all your info, make a short PowerPoint presentation or video and present it to your family and friends. Even better, ask your biology teacher if you can present it at school to spread the word about the impact of carbon footprint in the world's oceans. 

Invite people to donate to one of the organizations below or to make small changes in their lives to prevent ocean acidification from happening. 

Below are a few organizations working on studying the ocean and marine life and preventing ocean acidification from further damaging our underwater ecosystems. 

  1. Australian Institute of Marine Sciences
  2. Earth Policy Institute
  3. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
  4. Heal the Bay
  5. Indigenous Environmental Network
  6. International Conservation Union
  7. Oceana
  8. Ocean Ark Alliance
  9. The Ocean Project
  10. Oceanic Society

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