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The Ocean in Crisis - Research Paper Example

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Full Name Professor Name English 101 01 January 2012 The Ocean in Crisis Civilizations depend both directly and indirectly on the oceans that sustain life. Oceans serve as the source of abundant food and minerals, provide highways of international trade, and a means of waste disposal…
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The Ocean in Crisis
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Download file to see previous pages In some places like arid desert where fresh water is not readily available, ocean water serves as a lifeline for societies who can decrease its salt content to a safe level. Humanity’s dependence on the oceans is not a recent development, but has existed for thousands of years, ever since man first realized that he could master the resources that the ocean has to offer. Humans are not beyond that basic dependence on regulation and equilibrium in how they interact with the vast oceans of earth. Unfortunately, much of this equilibrium between the health of oceans and the health of civilizations has disappeared in the last century, with the rise of grave threats to the world’s seas. Problems such as acidification, climate change, pollution, and overfishing have resulted in the need for civilizations to rethink how they exploit the oceans to support necessary institutions. Of course, the existence of these threats is not always clear, so the purpose of this paper is to elucidate some of the inevitable dangers humans pose to the oceans and how those dangers can be reversed. Acidification Acidification is a process of decreasing the pH level of some substance—in this case, earth’s oceans. The process of acidification is occurring at a faster rate because of higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Because levels of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere remain relatively stable, the excess carbon dioxide is taken up by the oceans (Raven and Falkowski). Dissolved carbon dioxide produces acids such as carbonic acid and bicarbonate. A lower pH has the effect of making ocean waters more acidic, which means most importantly that oceanic calcifying organisms such as corals, crustaceans, echinoderms, mollusks, foraminifera, and others will be vulnerable to the negative effects of a more acidic ocean. Fundamental disruptions to the ecosystems of these organisms that lie at the bottom of the ocean’s food chain will have profound, and most likely irreversible, influences life in the ocean (Nienhuis, Palmer and Harley 10). Keith Sherwood and Craig Idso argue against those who claim ocean acidification poses a significant problem to earth’s largest ecosystem based on a review by Hendriks et al., published in 2010. According to the report, warnings that ocean acidification poses a significant long-term threat to marine biodiversity are based on theoretical models that do not account for numerous biological phenomena and are not supported by empirical observation. According to Sherwood and Idso, biological processes are capable of homeostasis against significant changes in pH levels within the range predicted during the 21st century. However, the essential contradiction here is that the conclusion being offered by Sherwood and Idso is based on the same theoretical models that they claim are not supported by empirical observation earlier; that is, “the range predicted during the 21st century” is a prediction based on a theoretical model of how acid levels in the bulk waters of the oceans will change. A major problem Sherwood and Idso do not address is whether predictions about acid level increases are actually reliable when by their own admission, Sherwood and Idso do not think so. Perhaps acid levels will rise much more than predicted, which would call into the question their conclusion that homeostasis can make up the difference. Climate Change Climate change and ocean acidificati ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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