Ocean acidification occurs when carbon dioxide (CO2) is absorbed rapidly into the ocean.
CO2 + H2O -> (H+) + (HCO3-)
Watch our animation about why it's called ocean acidification.
The rising CO2 problem
Carbon dioxide levels have now risen by 30% since the Industrial Revolution.
Seas are not actually going to be acidic – they will still be more alkaline than tap water.
Our world-leading experts
Professor Jason Hall-Spencer
With more than a billion people relying on food from the ocean as a primary source of protein, both jobs and food security across the globe depend on the fish and shellfish in our oceans.
Professor John Spicer
John has been one of the prominent researchers at the forefront of studying and highlighting the changes and impacts since the issue of ocean acidification was first recognised nearly 20 years ago.
“The Paris Agreement on climate change was welcome. But it does not mention ocean acidification, nor the fact that this rapid change in surface ocean chemistry undermines the social, economic and environmental pillars of sustainable development.”
– Professor Jason Hall-Spencer
Visualising ocean acidification
Jason Hall-Spencer has collaborated with Dr Kate Crawfurd to design an Ocean Organ, as part of Creative Associates 2021, with the aim to help visualise the effects of carbon dioxide on the oceans.
The organ demonstrates how the ocean changes chemically when you add carbon dioxide and the devastating effects of ocean acidification.
We must minimise the impact of ocean acidification
“the time is ripe for a ‘Paris Agreement for the oceans’, with the specific target to minimise and address the impacts of ocean acidification, including enhanced scientific cooperation at all levels.”
Climate change has reached emergency levels – our oceans are under stress
All of the stressors we have put on the ocean – from overfishing to pollution – have contributed to its ill-health.
The situation is now so severe that we are altering the chemistry of the ocean. At Plymouth we are researching the significant impacts of these stressors on marine life and the functioning of marine ecosystems.
Three of these main ocean stressors are:
- ocean acidification
- decreased oxygen levels (hypoxia)
- warming ocean temperatures.
Marine research at Plymouth
News about our ocean acidification research
- ‘Ocean Organ’ aims to highlight the damaging effects of climate change 25 June 2021
- Academic contributes to documentary exploring humans’ impact on the planet 15 April 2021
- Study demonstrates reductions in CO₂ could boost the recovery of marine life 25 January 2021
- Scientists join call for major shift in understanding to protect the ocean 25 November 2020
- Plastics and rising CO2 pose combined threat to marine environment 6 November 2020
- Future ocean conditions could cause significant changes in marine mussels 9 October 2020
- Rising carbon dioxide levels will change marine habitats and fish communities 20 April 2020
- Crab larvae already showing effects of coastal acidification 27 January 2020