Wednesday, October 17, 2017 written by Bianca Greeff and photographed by Mika Miller

When we burn fuels like coal, oil, and gas, carbon dioxide (CO2) is released into the atmosphere. The ocean absorbs around 30 percent of atmospheric CO2, which triggers a chemical reaction—ocean acidification—that lowers the ocean’s pH.

Ocean acidification will impact many marine species, but especially marine calcifiers— species like oysters, urchins, coral, crabs, and others with calcium carbonate shells or skeletons1. Acidic water becomes corrosive to these organisms and make it harder for them to build their shells or skeletons. Some species of algae and phytoplankton (microscopic plants that get their energy from the sun) are also vulnerable to slight changes in pH2. The loss of these species will ripple through the rest of the food web leaving other species without a food source.

The good news is that the ocean is resilient and there are actions we can take right now to keep our oceans healthy. If we all reduce our carbon footprint, we can slow the rate at which the ocean is changing. Don’t know where to start? Here are four quick ways to reduce your footprint and combat ocean acidification.

  1. Use better transportation. Carpool, bike, walk or take public transportation when possible. If you drive, combine your trips to save gas, time, and emissions.
  2. Be energy-efficient. Turn off lights when you aren’t in the room, choose energy efficient appliances, and keeping your thermostat at 68 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter and 72 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer to save energy.
  3. Eat more fruits and veggies. Large-scale animal agriculture is a large contributor to increasing greenhouse gases, and thus ocean acidification.
  4. Urge elected officials to take action on climate change. Write to your representative and ask them to reduce emissions, protect marine habitats, and adapt to current impacts.

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