Children understand that even though we have day followed by night etc., this is NOT the same as having permanent day or permanent night. A short term and large fluctuation in the amount of sunlight reaching the planet does NOT mean we could live in conditions that were permanently dark or permanently light. This analogy is the fundamental flaw behind Nova’s latest post on Ocean Acidification.
New research shows that ocean ph levels can fluctuate dramatically on short timeframes in some parts of the ocean. Here’s the main picture showing data from 15 various locations …
Nova then confuses short term fluctuations with the long term change in ph levels and makes several unsupported claims.
Firstly the heading of her post, “Ocean acidification happens all the time — naturally”, is incorrect. What “happens” all the time is that in some parts of the ocean, closer to shore or under some exceptional circumstance ph levels are reached for short periods of time. This is not the same as having permanently low ph levels as will be the case with Ocean Acidification. We will still have fluctuations, but they will be at even lower levels than now.
Nova says “It turns out that far from being a stable pH, spots all over the world are constantly changing.” but this is also untrue. From the above graphs we can see open ocean, Antarctic were almost entirely constant and the Coral Reefs were fairly steady.
Nova goes on … “One spot in the ocean varied by an astonishing 1.4 pH units regularly.” but fails to mention that this spot, Ischia, contains volcanic vents on the ocean floor that are releasing CO2 into the water.
This is not normal conditions, but it does offer science the ability to examine marine life in natural low ph conditions.
Unsurprisingly, actual science disagrees with Nova’s “it’s all ok” stance …
Calcareous foraminiferans, serpulid polychaetes, gastropods and bivalves showed highly significant reductions in recruitment to the collectors as pCO2 rose from normal (336–341 ppm, pH 8.09–8.15) to high levels (886–5,148 ppm) causing acidified conditions near the vents (pH 7.08–7.79).
Colonies of the cheilostome bryozoan Schizoporella errata were grown at a site near Ischia Island (Tyrrhenian Sea, Italy) where volcanogenic CO2 emissions lower seawater pH to 7.76, simulating levels of ocean acidification predicted for the end of the present century. Compared with colonies from a control site (mean pH = 8.09), putative defensive polymorphs (avicularia) were significantly fewer, and retarded growth of zooidal basal and lateral walls was evident at the low pH site.
Here, we show that corals and molluscs transplanted along gradients of carbonate saturation state at Mediterranean CO2 vents are able to calcify and grow at even faster than normal rates when exposed to the high CO2 levels projected for the next 300 years. Calcifiers remain at risk, however, owing to the dissolution of exposed shells and skeletons that occurs as pH levels fall. Our results show that tissues and external organic layers play a major role in protecting shells and skeletons from corrosive sea water, limiting dissolution and allowing organisms to calcify10, 11. Our combined field and laboratory results demonstrate that the adverse effects of global warming are exacerbated when high temperatures coincide with acidification.
Along gradients of normal pH (8.1–8.2) to lowered pH (mean 7.8–7.9, minimum 7.4–7.5), typical rocky shore communities with abundant calcareous organisms shifted to communities lacking scleractinian corals with significant reductions in sea urchin and coralline algal abundance.
Nova’s attempt to fool her readers into believing this report makes everything ok is undone if you bother to read the pee-reviewed science on the topic … so what does Nova do …
Some Guy on the Internet
Once again when the experts in a particular scientific field disagree with Nova’s, she turns turns to the advice of “some guy on the internet”. In this case it’s a biologist and journalist (you could say like Nova) Matt Ridley, who hasn’t published a peer-reviewed paper on either climate change or ocean acidification (just like Nova). They have a lot in common – ignore the science and cherry pick small bit they like.
Here’s Ridley’s quote that Nova has selected …
Off Papua New Guinea and the Italian island of Ischia, where natural carbon-dioxide bubbles from volcanic vents make the sea less alkaline, and off the Yucatan, where underwater springs make seawater actually acidic, studies have shown that at least some kinds of calcifiers still thrive—at least as far down as pH 7.8.
At least some form of life can survive!!! Well that’s certainly great news if you happen to be one of those forms. Matt and Nova show total disregard for biodiversity or the ecosystem. Suggesting ocean acidification is ok because some species survive whilst others die is not convincing at all.
Nova/Ridley now quote a passage from one of the scientific papers I listed above, however they cherry pick once again and leave out the section showing the detrimental impact of ocean acidification.
Nova/Ridley say the following …
In a recent experiment in the Mediterranean, reported in Nature Climate Change, corals and mollusks were transplanted to lower pH sites, where they proved “able to calcify and grow at even faster than normal rates when exposed to the high [carbon-dioxide] levels projected for the next 300 years.”
… but fail to quote the rest of the paragraph which reads …
Calcifiers remain at risk, however, owing to the dissolution of exposed shells and skeletons that occurs as pH levels fall. Our results show that tissues and external organic layers play a major role in protecting shells and skeletons from corrosive sea water, limiting dissolution and allowing organisms to calcify10, 11. Our combined field and laboratory results demonstrate that the adverse effects of global warming are exacerbated when high temperatures coincide with acidification.
Nova says “There goes another scare campaign.”
Is she referring to her own ridiculous analysis of the data and how obvious its flaws are exposed? Nova confuses short term fluctuations with long term changes, then cherry picks quote with “some guy on the internet” rather than listening to the experts in the field.
Nova says Ocean Acidification is OK – Not It’s Not Nova.