Trees and Oceans: extraordinary allies in the hunt for CO₂

Aug 25, 2021 | written by:

The oceans’ great capacity for absorbing CO₂ from the atmosphere risks making the water too acidic for marine life. This is the phenomenon of ocean acidification, but planting more trees can (also) stem the problem.

Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Arctic, Antarctic: the 5 oceans.

These are the 5 oceans of our planet, as we know – but written and read like this, all in a row, they might also look like 5 superheroes from the 90s.

And do you know what? In a way, they are. Except at the moment, they’re in a bit of trouble.

Put on your cape and red galoshes and read on to find out why.

The oceans of Planet Earth.

The oceans together cover 71% of the earth’s surface, equal to 360,700,000 km² (= three hundred and sixty million square kilometres). And it’s fundamentally thanks to their presence that cosmonauts like Yuri Gagarin have described the Earth as “the blue planet” during space flights.

The oceans aren’t just a gigantic amount of water separating continents, they’re also where the first forms of life appeared over 3.6 billion years ago. And they’re not just salt water. On the contrary. In the water we also find dissolved gases such as carbon dioxide, oxygen, nitrogen, methane and hydrogen sulphide. These are all gases essential to marine life (and life in general!), but only if they’re present in the right quantities, those planned by nature.

The superpower of the oceans.

But why did we say superheroes? And why are we talking about the right quantities?

Because the superpower of the oceans (“one of them”) is the ability to absorb a large percentage of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere each year by the planet and living beings – we’re talking about 25-30%.

This superpower also has a name: “Ocean Carbon Uptake”.

Unfortunately, however, when the concentration of CO₂ in the atmosphere becomes excessive, the oceans (which thanks to this mechanism continue to store CO₂) become more acidic, more than they should: this is because CO₂ reacts chemically with water and creates carbonic acid, the pH is lowered, and the water becomes much more acidic.

This phenomenon, on the other hand, is called Ocean Acidification.

This transformation of the water, as you can well imagine, has considerable consequences for marine ecosystems. Just think of it dissolving the calcareous shells of conches, molluscs and calcareous plankton, which, being made up of calcium carbonate, can’t tolerate an overly acidic pH.

Batman and Robin. Oceans and trees.

To stay with the metaphor, remember how Batman could count on the help of his sidekick Robin?

But who can the oceans count on? Easy: on trees! Tireless planetary helpers.

This is because the world’s forests, with their natural ability to absorb CO₂, help lower the level of it in the atmosphere, relieving the oceans from this task and thus halting the phenomenon of ocean acidification and therefore the loss of entire marine ecosystems.

Once again it’s a good time to say: let’s make this planet greener and greener! Like planting new trees and… a simple click is all it takes! Even superheroes will be grateful to us.

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