About a quarter of all the carbon dioxide pumped out by humans' burning of fossil fuels goes into the oceans, and it's causing a nasty phenomenon called ocean acidification.
Seawater has gone up about 30 percent in acidity since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s, making the oceans a much less hospitable place for many species.
But as a new study reveals, that's not the only problem, as a new study by scientist's at Great Britain's Plymouth University reveals. Ocean acidification actually is helping invasive species of algae, jellyfish, crabs and shellfish, which are more tolerant of rising CO2 levels than native species in many areas, to spread and take over new habitats.
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The study, published in the scientific journal Research and Reports in Biodiversity Studies, notes that the invasive species are proliferating even as CO2 levels destroy coral reefs, which are being dissolved by the pollution.
"We are witnessing the spread of marine life that cause problems -- such as toxic jellyfish blooms and rotting algal mats," Plymouth professor Jason Hall-Spencer, lead author of the report, said in a press release.
"Based on a synthesis of evidence available to date, we predict the problems associated with harmful marine life will get worse in response to rising CO2," Hall-Spencer explained. "Pathogens like cholera do not recognize national borders so seawater warming is a health issue for cities like London, and it remains to be seen which organisms will spread and cause problems as Arctic shipping routes open up."
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Hall-Spencer has studied volcanic sites in the Mediterranean, in an effort to record which forms of marine life cope well with higher CO2 levels. The results show that invasive species of algae and jellyfish thrive at levels that are predicted for the oceans later in this decade.
One species that's expected to do well in the more acidic ocean waters is so-called ‘killer algae," scientific name Caulerpa taxifolia, which already is spreading worldwide. The algae is so toxic that native herbivores will die of starvation rather than eat it.