Melting sea ice exposes more seawater surface area to the atmosphere, resulting in increased uptake of atmospheric CO2 in polar regions.
The world's oceans serve as a natural reservoir for CO2, but increasing CO2 in the atmosphere and the uptake of about 1/4 of human-produced CO2 emissions by the ocean is resulting in increased seawater acidity. This process, known as ocean acidification causes a decrease in seawater pH.
Ocean acidification affects marine geochemical and biological processes and may cause reduced shell formation, habitat loss, and possibly less food for predators. There are large uncertainties in how organisms will adapt and what will happen to food webs and ecosystems.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is conducting research on ocean acidification in polar, temperate, subtropical, and tropical regions including the Arctic, Gulf of Mexico and Florida estuaries, and the Caribbean and Pacific. Project activities include field assessment, experimental laboratory studies, and evaluation of existing data. The USGS is participating in international and interagency working groups to develop research strategies to increase understanding of the global implications of ocean acidification. Research strategies include new approaches for seawater chemistry observation and modeling, assessment of physiological effects on organisms, changes in marine ecosystem structure, new technologies, and information resources.