Explore BrainMass

Carbon cycle and ocean acidification: mitigations

Dear OTA,

I have developed my own opinions regarding human over population and it's strain on our Earth (e.g. welfare/religions).

One planetary boundary (of many) includes ocean acidification. Any ideas as to how to lessen this in years to come? I'm not even quite sure what defines it.

Thank you in advance,
An aspiring applied anthropologist

Solution Preview

Ocean acidification occurs when two gases dissolve in the sea: sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide. When sulfur dioxide dissolves it forms sulfurous acid (H2O + SO2 -> H2SO3) which quickly dissociates with water to form sulfite ion (2H2O + H2SO3 -> 2H3O+ + SO3--). Likewise, carbon dioxide dissolves in water to form carbonic acid (H2O + CO2 -> H2CO3) which dissociates with water to form carbonate ion ( 2H2O + H2CO3 -> 2H3O+ + CO32-). You can see in both reactions the formation of hydronium ion (H3O+) which is often depicted as hydrogen ion (H+) and contributes to lowering the pH (negative log of hydrogen ion concentration) or increasing the acidity. The reason for this is that though the equations are in balance and therefore chemically neutral, the carbonate ion and sulfite ion combine with other moieties, e.g., calcium, to form insoluble compounds that are removed from solution leaving an excess of hydronium/hydrogen ion. The carbon and sulfur involved in forming carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide both derive from burning fossil fuels as well as from natural sources such as volcanoes. No one has done the calculations to determine how much of these compounds derive from volcanism, but we know that thousands of tons are produced by burning fossil fuels every year. The more carbon and sulfur dioxides that are put ...

Solution Summary

Ocean acidification occurs as a direct result of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. Mitigations include reduced production, neutralization, dilution, and carbon dioxide fixation by plants. At present, only reduced production makes practical sense, but requires the cooperation of both developed and undeveloped countries, so far beyond our ability to affect. Whether surface ecosystems will be as impacted by ocean acidification as deep ocean ecosystems is not known, but evidence from the Paleocene-Eocene boundary conditions suggests surface systems will do better.