Icelandic seas under pressure from pollution

Scientists are increasingly concerned by the effects of exhaust pollution on sealife. The sea around Iceland is reaching its maximum pollution tolerance level, says one oceanographer.

The increased greenhouse effect and climate change are known problems caused by carbon gas emissions from industry, transport and many other sources. But at a symposium at the National Museum of Iceland, oceanographer Jon Olafsson went over the effect of such pollution on the sea — something many people in the crowd had never previously thought about.

One of the effects of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide levels is to acidify the oceans; a phenomenon which is particularly serious in the North Atlantic, RUV reports. The problem first became apparent six years ago when scientists began measuring acidity in ports. The sea absorbs around a quarter of the world’s exhaust pollution, which in turn affects every part of the ocean habitat.

One of the consequences of acidified seas is seen in calcium-rich lifeforms; such as shellfish which are less able to construct adequate shells. The problem also affects krill — the bottom rung of much of the ocean food web.

Scientists are researching which shellfish species are best able to deal with more acidic waters — and which are least able. Initial results are expected next year.