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Acid test points to coming fish troubles

Young fish can suffer severe damage from the ocean acidification expected within this century

1:40pm, December 13, 2011

The increasing acidification of ocean water may seriously jeopardize survival in young fish, two new studies find. Until now, studies of acidification’s effects on fish focused on adults — and found little evidence of life-threatening harm.

Seawater absorbs carbon dioxide from the air; the more CO2 absorbed, the more the pH drops, tipping the oceans’ waters toward the acidic end of the scale (SN: 3/15/2008, p. 170). So, forecasted increases in atmospheric CO2 concentration will hasten ocean acidification.

In both new studies, survival of young fish diminished as seawater’s CO2 concentration rose to levels scientists expect to see between 2050 and 2100. Already, however, fish in certain regions periodically encounter such acidification.

Both studies appear online December 11 in Nature Climate Change.

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