The research sets to investigate the effects of ocean acidification in the costal cities. The research is based in San Diego investigating the effect that ocean acidification has had to the marine ecosystem and the surrounding environment .Ocean acidification refers to the change in pH of the ocean which occurs over a period of time due to uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (Doney,  Fabry, Feely,  & Kleypas, 2009). The water pH changes towards the neutral conditions rather than having a transition to acidic conditions. It is estimated that about thirty to forty percent of carbon dioxide released by human activities to the atmosphere dissolves into water bodies with some reacting with water to form carbonic acid. Some of the carbonic acid further dissociates into bicarbonate ion and a hydrogen ion resulting in increasing ocean acidity (Feely et al,2004)

Jacobson (2005) notes that between the years 1751 to 1996 the surface water pH is estimated to have decreased from approximately 8.25to 8.14 which represents an almost 30% increase in hydrogen ions concentration in the world oceans. He further estimated that by the year 2008 the acidity levels would have exceeded the historical analogues and in combination with other changes occurring in the ocean especially biochemical changes it could cause an effect to the marine ecosystem and the surrounding ocean environment. Increase in ocean acidity presents a range of potential harmful consequences for marine organisms. The topic of ocean acidification is of major concern to the world today as the levels of acidification have gone up to alarming rates hence the need to be addressed not only at the local but also global level.





Cases of oceanic acidification in the world in recent years have been increasing. At the moment, ocean acidification is affecting the entire worlds oceans which is inclusive of waterways and coastal estuaries (California Coastal Commission, 2020). The increase in ocean acidity levels is due to the increase in the levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide which results from absorption of about one third of atmospheric carbon dioxide that is released to the atmosphere at the rate of twenty-two million turns in a day (Doney, Fabry, Feely, & Kleypas, 2009). This leads to a decrease in the concentration of carbon ion resulting to environmental effects to the marine ecosystem and beyond. The levels of ocean acidification currently in the world is causing much effect to the marine life and  further increase of carbon will lead to much more severe consequences. This necessitates a research into the matter to find ways of mitigating the effects and the damage caused and find solutions o prevent further acidifications of the oceans in the world.

This research focuses on Ocean acidification in San Diego. The west coast famously abundant fisheries are at risk with increased acidification of the ocean. There have been dire changes in the ocean chemistry and marine life in this region and a solution ought to be sought quickly to prevent further risk to the marine life. A review of related literature on ocean acidification globally and narrowing it down to San Diego will help inform the research on the background of the situation, what has been done and areas that need to be addressed and the best approaches of conducting this research.





Rationale for research

Dating back to about 1850, the ocean has absorbed about a third and half of the carbon that is emitted to the atmosphere. The result has been the falling of the average pH of the water by about 0.1 units which is from 8.2 to about 8.1 (Monroe, 2011).  This corresponds to a twenty six percent increase in the acidity of the ocean. This rate of change is ten times faster that any time in the last 55 million years. If this rate of acidification continues, the marine life and the surrounding environment are at high risk as the effects that are being presented now are expected to increase further and cause untold consequences. It is therefore vital that solutions are sought to avert the possibility of the situation getting worse.

This situation is further expected to worsen in the future if steps are not taken to mitigate the situation. The degree of future ocean acidification will closely be linked to future atmospheric carbon. An increase in greenhouse as emissions as they are being observed now would lead to an increase in ocean acidity by around 0.4 units by the end of the century which will have devastating effects to the environment and the ecosystem (Monroe, 2011). There is therefore, the need to investigate issues sounding ocean acidity, find a way to mitigate the causes of ocean acidity and in the cases where there are negative effects of the phenomenon being experienced already find a remedy to it so that we can save the environment and the marine ecosystem. The dangers posed by ocean acidification and the possibility of the situation getting worse (Weber,2015) if nothing is done lays the importance of conducting this research.






The quantity of carbon released to the atmosphere through human activities is enormous. Doley at all (2009) indicates that I the year 2008 the total human carbon dioxide emission was about ten million tons which is equivalent to one million tons per hour on per capita basis. Of this amount, approximately 8.7 million tons comes from fossils fuel combustion and fuel production while another approximate 1.2 tons comes from deforestation (Le Quéré et al.,2009). Cumulative human emissions over industrial areas comes close to 560 million tons. Approximately half of this carbon emissions remains in the atmosphere long enough to be of grave concern.

As atmospheric carbon dioxide rises thermodynamics and air sea gas transfer processes drive some of the carbon to the ocean water surface which leads to substantial shift in the sea water acidity, and the chemical speciation of large reservoirs of carbon dissolve in sea water as indicated in figure 1

There are concerns of how the marine life will respond to changes in circulation that is caused by circulation in planets radiative balance that is caused by elevated carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (Boyd and Doney,2002). In the 1980’s and 1990’s there was few research o how carbon dioxide affected marine life but with time, there has been several ground breaking research and findings that have been designed to test atmospheric carbon dioxide impact revealing potentially drastic responses in corals and the coral reef communities  Gattuso et al., 1998; Marubini and Atkinson, 1999; Kleypas et al., 1999; Langdon et al., 2000) an planktonic organisms (Riebesell et al., 2000)

Despite the fact that ocean acidification has become a global phenomenon, emerging research n the field are indicative that United States of America specifically Canadian West coast will face one of the earliest and most severe changes in ocean carbon chemistry. Due to the circulations of the Pacific Ocean, the west coast is exposed to more acidic water than other areas in the world. There has been already evidence of reduction in production of oyster in the pacific Northwest as the changes in the chemistry of the water tamper with shell formation while scientist warn that more risks are yet to come including popular game fish and other species will face the same effects as oysters (Murphy, 2013).

Figure 1: Time series of atmospheric CO2 at Mauna Loa (in parts per million volume, ppmv; red), surface ocean pCO2 (μatm; blue) and surface ocean pH (green) at Ocean Station ALOHA in the subtropical North Pacific Ocean.







Different literature on the research indicate a number of effects that acidification of the ocean has had on marine life and its environments. It is also indicative of further danger if the amount of carbon in the atmosphere causing ocean acidity does not reduce. A projection in the future with increased emission of carbo in the atmosphere presents a decrease in water pH by about 0.4 which means that the effects that we are experiencing now caused by ocean acidification may worsen. This translates to increased danger on marine life and possible extinction of some marine species that can not cope up with the high levels of ocean acidification.

The literature indicates that there has been an increase in the amount of carbon dioxide released in the atmosphere by human activities. Human activities in comparison to natural causes of acidification, account to a larger percentage of the carbon dioxide responsible to oceanic acidification. Ocean acidification has so far had a number of effects to the marine life which is expected to worsen if the number of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere keeps increasing. It is therefore important that a solution is sought for this to prevent the negative impact.









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California Coastal Commission. (2020). Ocean Acidification. [online] Available at: https://www.coastal.ca.gov/publiced/oa.html [Accessed 3 Feb. 2020].

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Feely, R. A.; Sabine, C. L.; Lee, K.; Berelson, W.; Kleypas, J.; Fabry, V. J.; Millero, F. J. (2004). “Impact of Anthropogenic CO2 on the CaCO3 System in the Oceans”. Science. 305 (5682): 362–366. Bibcode:2004Sci… 305..362F. doi:10.1126/science.1097329. PMID 15256664. Retrieved 25 January 2014 – via Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL).

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Gattuso, J.-P., M. Frankignoulle, I. Bourge, S. Romaine, and R.W. Buddemeier. 1998. Effect of calcium carbonate saturation of seawater on coral calcification. Global and Planetary Change 18:37–46.

Jacobson, M. Z. (2005). “Studying ocean acidification with conservative, stable numerical schemes for nonequilibrium air-ocean exchange and ocean equilibrium chemistry”. Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres. 110: D07302. Bibcode:2005JGRD.11007302J. doi:10.1029/2004JD005220.

Langdon, C., T. Takahashi, C. Sweeney, D. Chipman, J. Goddard, F. Marubini, H. Aceves, H. Barnett, and M. Atkinson. 2000. Effect of calcium carbonate saturation state on the calcification rate of an experimental coral reef. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 14:639–654.

Le Quéré, C., M.R. Raupach, J.G. Canadell, G. Marland, L. Bopp, P. Ciais, T.J. Conway, S.C. Doney, R.A. Feely, P. Foster, and others. 2009. Trends in the sources and sinks carbon dioxide. Nature Geoscience 2:831–836, doi:10.1038/ngeo689

Marubini, F., and M.J. Atkinson. 1999. Effects of lowered pH and elevated nitrate on coral calcification. Marine Ecology Progress Series 188:117–21.

Monroe, R. (2011) Comprehensive Study Makes Key Findings of Ocean pH Variations. Institute of Oceanography.

Murphy, S. (2013). Rising Acidity Threatens Marine Ecosystems Off San Diego. [online] KPBS Public Media. Available at: https://www.kpbs.org/news/2013/nov/19/ocean-acid-threatens-san-diego-marine-ecosystems/ [Accessed 3 Feb. 2020].

Riebesell, U., I. Zondervan, B. Rost, P.D. Tortell, R.E. Zeebe, and F.M.M. Morel. 2000. Reduced calcification of marine plankton in response to increased atmospheric CO2. Nature 407:364–367

Weber, V. (2015). Environmental liability from offshore carbon dioxide sequestration in the European Union (Doctoral dissertation, University of Southampton).



Figure sources

Doney, S. C., Balch, W. M., Fabry, V. J., & Feely, R. A. (2009). Ocean acidification: a critical emerging problem for the ocean sciences. Oceanography, 22(4), 16-25.




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