Share | | More

Monday, October 4, 2010

Demon pigs and ocean acidification

I had a terrifying experience last week! It involved a pig.

See, I was traveling for work, and I stayed in a hostel to save some money. By the time I got to bed I'd been awake for more than 36 hours, so the second I hit the pillow I dropped into one of those abyss-like slumbers. At some point in the night something woke me up - some kind of commotion. I woke up, but I was severely confused - I had no idea where I was or what was going on. I couldn't see much in the darkness - just a mass moving around across the room. The whole thing quickly took on a nightmarish feel. I thought that I was in a cabin, looking through a window into a misty night, watching a large pig trying to break in. At this point my survival instinct kicked in. Obviously I needed to scare the pig away! I tried yelling, but found I couldn't make a noise (thank goodness, in retrospect). So I did the next best thing: I started wildly flapping my arms at the demon pig, beating them against the mattress as loud as I could. Then I fell back asleep. The whole thing took maybe 15 seconds.

Anyway, turns out that what I thought/dreamed was a pig - it was just somebody tossing in their sleep in another bunk. So long story short: if you would have walked into that hostel room at that particular time, you would have seen one guy tossing and turning in his sleep, and another guy staring at him wild-eyed, madly flapping his arms.

Waving one's arms to frighten off marauding demon pigs is
technically known as the "Busey Method"
So that was strange. But do you know what really keeps me up at night? Ocean acidification.

Seriously. Ocean acidification is bad, bad news. And the thing about ocean acidification is that until recently, nobody really saw it coming - so we have a situation in which the basic research is only now being done, even though the effects of ocean acidification may already be occurring. For example, as noted previously on this blog, oyster growers on the west coast of the U.S. have had several years of very poor larval survival, and they - and scientists - are increasingly pointing at 'acidified' ocean water as a potential culprit.

Now, a new study sends a similar message: far from being a 'future' concern, ocean acidification may be affecting shellfish already. U.S. researchers report that two commercially-important east coast shellfish (Northern quahog and Atlantic bay scallop) grown under 'pre-industrial' levels of dissolved carbon dioxide (250 parts per million) displayed more robust growth and survival, and grew thicker shells, than those subjected to present-day CO2 concentrations (roughly 390 ppm).The authors suggest that acidification in today's ocean waters, resulting from two centuries' worth of human-caused carbon dioxide emissions, may be impacting shellfish stocks.

It's little wonder, then, that concerns regarding ocean acidification are rapidly moving from scientists to people who make a living on the water. For example, see this letter from Alaska commercial shellfish growers and fisheries representatives, asking for, among other things, a cap on carbon emissions. And that's really the bottom line - to address ocean acidification, we need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Ocean acidification - it's the ugly, ugly twin of climate change, and unlike a nightmare phantom pig, no amount of arm waving is going to scare it away.

No comments:

Post a Comment