By Giselle Grassi
Global warming is a concept that people can choose not to believe if they over-look many of the scientifically proven studies that have shown that global climate change is occurring and we are causing it. Due to increased climate changes, there are many places around the world that are suffering, but the most drastic changes are showing up in the oceans. Every ocean has been acidifying at new levels that scientists have never seen before. These changes can eventually lead to many negative fluctuations in the marine environment we know today. But the real question is how will the increasingly acidic seas of 2017 affect the sea life, particularly the oysters, in the town of Oyster Bay?
Ever Since the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, humans have been expelling 30 percent more carbon dioxide into the earth's atmosphere, according to TakePart. Over time this has led to temperature increases and destruction everywhere from Africa to the Antarctic. Considering that oceans occupy 99 percent of the living space on earth, we should all try to save them, but it might just be too late thanks to our negative impacts on the environment. Just like the atmosphere contains more carbon dioxide than ever before, so do the oceans. The oceans are absorbing 50 percent more carbon dioxide than studies have shown in decades before, which, over time, causes the acidification of the ocean water.
The good news is that the following states of Washington, Oregon, California, Maine and Maryland are tackling ocean acidification to help save more oysters, clams, mussels and lobsters by funding research on the most important commercially harvested species that may be impacted by ocean acidification.
The rapid acidification of the oceans is causing oysters, as well as other shelled organisms, to no longer be capable of producing their hard shells. As a result, this has led industries in the Pacific Northwest to declare bankruptcy due an 80 percent decrease in oysters. This same concept could potentially occur here in Oyster Bay, New York.
The Clean Power Plan was introduced on August 3, 2015 by President Barack Obama. The plan was constructed to help reduce the amount of carbon emissions from existing power plants. Power plants are the largest contributors to carbon pollution and The Clean Power Plan hopes to reduce carbon emissions from power plants by 32 percent by 2030. The founders of The Clean Power Plan hope to increase success in the shellfish harvesting communities and help the only oceans we will ever have.
Ocean acidification is much more complicated than it sounds, so here is a brief summary of what it really is. As the oxygen gas levels in our oceans decrease, huge bodies of water like the Atlantic Ocean, are soaking up 50 percent more carbon dioxide than studies have shown in the past. Oceanographer Sunke Schmidtko, along with colleagues from GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, found that there was a decline in oxygen levels by 2 percent worldwide from 1960 to 2010. They also concluded that the largest overall volume of oxygen lost occurred in the Pacific Ocean (a.k.a. the largest ocean). Contradicting this is the greatest overall percentage lost at the most rapid pace in the Arctic Ocean where the world's most extreme climate change is taking place.
The oceans are prominent parts to a balanced society, and the human race is continually threatening the idea of a somewhat balanced society even now, in 2017. The reason why I am talking so much about the oxygen percentages and volumes in the oceans is that ocean oxygen is a very delicate gas that sustains many organisms from the surface of the water down to its deepest depths. The decrease in oxygen is occurring because of global warming, and the fact that warmer water holds less dissolved gas “it’s the same reason we keep our sparkling drinks pretty cold,” says Schmidtko. This “flat” concept will also be seen in marine organisms as well.
Organisms like the oysters will start to go flat both because of the increased carbon dioxide levels in the water and because of the decreased oxygen levels. The little oxygen available to organisms is constantly floating to the surface of the water due to the increased temperatures in the water and the fact that warm substances rise because of a lower density. When oxygen rises in the oceans, it causes the photosynthetic microorganisms at the surface to thrive, but it affects the creatures at lower depths, where the water is colder and has less oxygen, negatively.
The areas around the world with decreasing levels of oxygen are called “oxygen minimum zones” and they are located in the middle depths of oceans. On a more extreme level, there are also areas with almost no oxygen that are called “dead zones.” The decrease in oxygen levels destroys the marine life that live on the ocean floor, and it even causes some organisms to produce nitrous gas. Nitrous gas is also a greenhouse gas; therefore, it worsens global warming in a “feedback loop.”
The causes of global warming and ocean acidification range anywhere from the negative impacts that humans have on the environment to the amount of fossil fuels we burn. Though not 100 percent proven, all of these negative effects on the environment are majorly caused by us, whether we like it or not. As the change in climate increases due to what most scientists believe is “human-driven climate warming,” the amount of healthy and natural organisms like oysters, mussels and clams will start to decrease. It is said that a loss up to 7 percent of oxygen will be released from the oceans by 2100, and this is also said to cause “far-reaching implications for marine ecosystems and fisheries.”
Oyster Bay has had a long history of harvesting oysters since the Native Americans were present on Long Island in Canoes and since the Dutch colonists inhabited and named our town after its prosperous supply of oysters. There is even an Oyster Festival that is celebrated annually to show off all of the locally harvested oysters and other shellfish. Some of the profits made are sent to the North Oyster Bay Baymen's Association (NOBBA) who have harvested and protected the shellfish of our waters for 31 years.
As the beds of oysters are continually decreasing in Oyster Bay there are also many dangerous changes occurring in our world's oceans mainly due to human interactions. There are many groups like the NOBBA around the world that are trying to save our harbors and our oceans because they are not all ours, believe it or not. There are 15,300 different species of just fish in the sea and it is our job to try and save every one of them by doing whatever we can, as soon as we can.
To help save our oceans please contribute to any charity of your choice or start your own, whether it be for saving the oysters or the wales, and be a part of the fight to save our oceans because we will not get new ones when the ones we already have are gone.
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