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OCEAN ACIDIFICATION: From Knowledge to Action, Washington’s Strategic Response
Ocean acidification is a risk to our marine environment, economy, and cultural resources.
It creates conditions that are corrosive to shellfish and other organisms that use calcium carbonate to build shells and other hard body parts. Shellfish larvae and juveniles are especially vulnerable to more acidic waters. Massive die-offs of oyster larvae at Pacific Northwest hatcheries between 2005 and 2009 were due to low pH seawater entering the hatcheries. Ocean acidification could also affect the broader marine food web.
Ocean acidification is related to but distinct from climate change
Ocean acidification and climate change share a common cause — increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Ocean acidification is a problem that we can address, although it will be challenging
The primary cause of ocean acidification is human activities. Ocean acidification is a lowering of pH level in seawater, caused primarily by the absorption of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by the oceans. Rapid growth in the use of fossil fuels (e.g., coal and oil) has dramatically increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which, in turn, is causing rapid changes in ocean chemistry.
Washington is particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification. Regional factors combine with global carbon dioxide emissions to exacerbate the acidification process. Coastal upwelling brings cold, salty water that is rich in carbon dioxide and low in pH to Washington’s coast and eventually into the Puget Sound. Nutrient runoff, organic carbon, and local air emissions of carbon dioxide also contribute to acidification, especially in more developed or urbanized regions.
Washington is taking a leadership role in confronting the problem of ocean acidification
Governor Gregoire convened the Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification in Feb. 2012, making Washington the first state in the nation to tackle ocean acidification at this level. The Panel consisted of scientists; public opinion leaders; industry representatives; state, local, federal, and tribal policy makers; and conservation community representatives.
Panel scientists reviewed and summarized the current state of scientific knowledge about ocean acidification in Washington State. A technical document was produced, Scientific Summary of Ocean Acidification in Washington State Marine Waters. The Panel’s report, “OCEAN ACIDIFICATION: From Knowledge to Action, Washington State’s Strategic Response” is recommending actions be taken to:
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