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Oceans acidifying faster today than in past 300 million years
Date:3/2/2012

e research detected specific moments in the history of the Earth associated with profound acidification, such as the PaleoceneEocene Thermal Maximum occurring some 56 million years ago. "Due to volcanic emissions and the destabilisation of frozen methane hydrates on the ocean floor, large amounts of carbon were freed into the atmosphere, comparable to levels humans may achieve in emitting in the future. Large extinctions took place during that period, especially of benthic fauna. Nevertheless, CO2 injections were at least ten times slower than those occurring now, which augurs more catastrophic consequences caused by current anthropogenic changes", states Carles Pelejero, researcher at the CSIC Institute of Marine Sciences and ICREA.

Geological records offer details on the biological changes associated with other large-scale global disturbances, such as that occurring after an asteroid hit Earth and marked the end of the Cretaceous Period, 65 million years ago, and which also is thought to be the cause of ocean acidification.

Other extinctions, such as the end of the Triassic Period 200 million years ago, and the end of the Permian Period, also could have been the cause of important acidification processes. However, all have been associated with reduced levels of oxygen in oceans and a high rise in temperatures as well. In fact, these three environmental factors are the ones most globally affecting oceans presently: global warming, acidification and decrease in oxygen.

"Considering the effects we detect through fossil records, there is no doubt that we must tackle the problem at its roots as soon as possible, adopting measures to immediately reduce our CO2 emissions into the atmosphere" concludes Patrizia Ziveri, researcher at ICTA.


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Contact: Maria Jesus Delgado
MariaJesus.Delgado@uab.cat
34-935-814-049
Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona
Source:Eurekalert

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