Scientists from around the world recently came together in Portland, Ore. for Ocean Sciences 2010.
Although not official, one of the themes that emerged during the conference was the changing state of the world's oceans. Through ocean acidification, larger oxygen depleted areas, lower coral coverage and the invasion of the well-recognized lionfish from the Pacific, scientists are identifying symptoms of change similar to those seen in lakes of the Northeast.
The term ocean acidification may bring to mind the acid rain of the Adirondacks. Since becoming a familiar term in the 1970s, we have associated acid rain with deadlakes, dying trees and corroded buildings.
Unlike fresh water, the ocean is not actually becoming acidic, but it is becoming less basic, hence, acidifying. The ocean's salinity originates from sediments and atmospheric exchanges, and the complex chemistry allows life as we know it to exist. Organisms such as corals, shellfish and crustaceans that depend upon certain chemicals to build their homes or regulate their metabolism are thereby affected when that chemistry changes.
Another familiar story in the Northeast is the death of Lake Erie. Most upper latitude lakes have seasonal changes in which they turnover with both the formation and melting of the ice. During the summer, the bottom of a lake may go completely without oxygen if the upper waters are algal rich. This anoxia may be extended by increased nutrient availability and other forms of pollution.
Lake Erie was so polluted, that it was unable to freeze for a number of years, hence interrupting the natural process of rebirth.
Off the coast of British Columbia, Ca, scientists have identified areas of the ocean that are staying anoxic longer and growing larger than ever previously seen.
The invasion of the zebra mussels is well known to any recreational user of the fresh waters of the Northeast. While they have demonstrated an amazing ability to help in the cleanup of polluted bodies of water, due to their ability to survive in harsher environments, they have still had a massive impact on the surface communities of the rivers and lakes.