Volcanic vents offer peek at acidic future

The underwater volcanoes off a tiny Italian island are helping scientists peer into the future of a world altered by increasing amounts of carbon dioxide emitted into the air and absorbed into the oceans.

The waters just off the island of Ischia mirror the projected conditions of the Earth’s oceans at the beginning of the next century because the volcanic vents found there infuse the water with large helpings of carbon dioxide, or CO2, which turns seawater acidic.

Research has shown that the growing acidic conditions are harmful to some sea creatures — those that build their protective shells with calcium are increasingly prevented from doing so the more acidic waters become.

The fates of these creatures and the stability of the ocean food chain are a major concern over the next century and beyond because of the carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere by humans, as the oceans absorb about 30 percent of this carbon dioxide.

“One part of climate change that is indisputable is that CO2 is rising in the atmosphere — it’s easy to measure,” said Bill Chadwick, an Oregon State University geologist. “And it’s indisputable that it is making the oceans more acidic — we can measure it.”

(Oregon Sea Grant has supported previous deep-sea research projects by Dr. Chadwick).

Print Friendly, PDF & Email