As highlighted by the strive for 100% clean renewable energy currently ongoing at the Paris Climate Conference, climate change is an ongoing anthropogenic driven phenomenon that is causing unpredictable changes to our environment. Climate change does not only impact what we consider nature. In Beijing, smog levels have reached density where children are not allowed to go outside to attend school.
Our daily emissions from cars and industry increase the CO2 stored in the atmosphere, which in turn gets dissolved into our waters. This is what we call ocean acidification, the other CO2 problem. Already we see ecosystems decaying from ocean acidification. The physical impacts of ocean acidification such as coral reef decay and decalcification are better known to the general public, however, recent studies are showing that decreasing ocean pH also causes organisms to change their behaviours. This in turn alters interactions between organisms and can potentially change ecosystem composition.
I recently completed an independent research project on what happens to the behaviour of common shore crabs when they’re exposed to high dissolved CO2. After crabs were left in the high CO2 water for a week, I found that crabs in the high CO2 condition would have a slower flip time (after placing them on their backs) and a preference for areas without shelter than crabs in normal CO2 conditions. These findings are important as they negatively impact the crab’s behaviour in the presence of a predator. If a crab is slower at flipping onto its legs to run away or does not seek shelter, this may lead to them being more vulnerable to predators.
This is only one example of changes in animal behaviour due to dissolved CO2. A recent study found that reef fish become attracted to the smell of their predators when exposed to high CO2 in the water. This directly changes trophic interactions since reef fish populations will likely decrease and the populations of their prey will increase.
What can we do to help? Besides switching to more eco-friendly solutions and everyday recycling, we can educate ourselves on climate change and propagate that knowledge to everyone around us. This way, we can create sustainable lifestyles for ourselves and everyone around us. I believe that as inhabitants of the world, we have a responsibility to keep it and other residents healthy.We are always taught as children to take care of our possessions and homes. The Earth is our home, and it is time that we being to realise this.