As oceans absorb carbon dioxide, they become more acidic. The rate of rising acidity will likely increase and will affect ocean species, according to The Guardian.
Given the increasing acidity, experts say that some species won’t be able to cope with the changes and could potentially be affected in catastrophic ways. Species like coral that rely on calcification for protection will likely suffer as the acidic water impacts their outer coverings. Ocean temperatures are also increasing, which can also stress corals.
The process of acidification is a slow one, taking decades. Some of the worst effects on ocean species could still be avoided if carbon dioxide emissions were reduced dramatically. Experts say the last high-acidification period in Earth’s history – around 250 million years ago – saw mass extinctions of ocean species. Carbon dioxide played a role then, with levels reaching those similar to levels forecasted for the end of the current century.