Researchers warn that rising concentrations of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere are gradually increasing acidification levels in our oceans as well. While this lower pH will prove to be particularly harmful to crustaceans such as crabs and lobster that have shells made mostly of calcium, the researchers also noted in their report Inhospitable Oceans published in the journal Nature Climate Change that taking swift action now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could avert the worst damage.

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There’s more at stake than the possibility our grandchildren will never enjoy the sweet taste of lobster served with melted butter. “The current rate of change is likely to be more than 10 times faster than it has been in any of the evolutionary crises in the earth’s history,” Hans Poertner, professor of marine biology at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany, told The Guardian.

Poertner and his colleagues note that CO2 concentrations are set to reach levels comparable to that reached 250m years ago, when the Permian Triassic extinctions took place, towards the latter half of this century. But since ocean acidification is a slow, gradual process, they are also optimistic that it is possible to slow down that rate if we begin to institute policies now that drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Warmer, more acidic oceans are not only harmful to crustaceans, but to corals, mollusks, echinoderms and fish as well, according to The Guardian. However, some species are more resilient than others. Astrid Wittmann, co-author of the paper, told The Guardian that “species with low resilience could be outcompeted by those that were more vulnerable to acidification, and that further studies were needed, particularly on plants and plankton, which were left out of this research.

Via The Guardian