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Oceans absorb approximately a quarter of the carbon dioxide that humans add to the Earth's atmosphere each year. While this process has helped to remove this potent greenhouse gas from the atmosphere, it has led to an increase in the acidity of the ocean and many coastal waters. While some aquatic species that rely on photosynthesis to survive may benefit from higher carbon dioxide content, the consequences of more acidic conditions may be dire for calcifying species, such as corals, oysters, clams, sea urchins, and calcareous plankton.
The science of ocean acidification and its effects on marine species and the larger food web are only beginning to be understood, but resource managers in many ocean and coastal parks are taking steps to document and mitigate impacts, where possible. In Olympic National Park a pilot project is monitoring ocean acidification to characterize local variation in acidification and develop a baseline for long-term monitoring within the park.
Last Updated: August 15, 2011