The Effects of Fossil Fuels in the Marine Ecosystem
It is normal to hear about the negative impacts of fossil fuels, such as coal and natural gases, on our environment and their role in exacerbating climate change. However, the harm caused by fossil fuels goes beyond just harming terrestrial ecosystems: it also destroys marine ecosystems and organisms through ocean acidification. Ocean acidification is the decrease of pH in the oceans due to excessive emissions of carbon dioxide. As more fossil fuels are being released into the air, the ocean absorbs more carbon dioxide, changing its chemical behavior by making it more acidic (1).
The increased acidity of the ocean has devastating consequences for marine organisms. Ocean acidification can deprive oysters, clams, corals, shellfish, and other organisms of the minerals needed to survive (2). The protective structures of these marine organisms, such as skeletons and shells, are made up of calcium carbonate. The more carbon dioxide in the ocean, the faster these shells will dissolve, leaving these organisms defenseless. Additionally, the dramatic chemical change in water can harm fish by worsening their vision and disorienting them (3). These impacts can cause the population of fish to decrease significantly. These marine organisms play a significant role in the food chain and sustain the marine ecosystem. The problems marine organisms are facing right now can lead to even more serious problems in the future if they are not addressed.
Fossil fuels unequivocally have a damaging effect on the atmosphere. However, we should also keep in mind the effects are also seen in marine ecosystems, rendering the issue of fossil fuel usage even more urgent. Therefore, it is highly important for all of us to direct attention to the issues caused by fossil fuels both above and below the ocean.
In order to ensure that our marine ecosystems will remain intact for future generations, we must spread awareness about the effect fossil fuels have on ocean acidification. Additionally, we all should make smarter decisions and consider the impact our choices have on the environment, especially marine life.
Ocean Acidification - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, www.noaa.gov/education/resource-collections/ocean-coasts/ocean-acidification. Accessed 17 Sept. 2023.
Fisheries, NOAA. “Understanding Ocean Acidification.” NOAA, https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/insight/understanding-ocean-acidification. Accessed 16 Sept. 2023.
Analysis Challenges Slew of Studies Claiming Ocean ... - Science, www.science.org/content/article/analysis-challenges-slew-studies-claiming-ocean-acidification-alter-fish-behavior. Accessed 17 Sept. 2023.