Researchers are actively working on this question, and they do not yet have all the answers.
One area that has be actively investigated is the affect of more acidic sea water on creatures that make their home out of calcium carbonate shells. Most sea shells, corals, and many species of plankton are made of this calcium carbonate – as the water becomes more acidic it may become harder and harder for most of these animals to produce their shells. In some areas, the calcium carbonate shells are dissolving.
However, not not all shell producing sea creatures are adversely affected; coccolithophores are a type of plankton creature that shows greater growth in water rich in carbonic acid. During the transition between the Paleocene and the Eocene there was a dramatic increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide – and basically most calcium carbonate in the ocean dissolved and many species went extinct.
So though scientists do not yet have all the answers, they are trying to solve the problem in at least three ways: by looking at times in the past when there has been a dramatic increase in carbon dioxide, by exposing aquariums to acidic conditions, and by looking at parts of the oceans where carbon dioxide is already very high and observing the effects of local acidification.
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