The Arctic Ocean is becoming acidic so quickly that it will reach corrosive levels within 10 years, a leading scientist has warned. Waters around the North Pole are absorbing carbon dioxide at such a rate that they will soon start dissolving the shells of living sea creatures.
The potentially disastrous consequences for the food chain have been highlighted by Professor Jean-Pierre Gattuso of the National Centre for Scientific Research in France. His team of oceanographers have produced startling predictions about the acidity of the Arctic Ocean after research carried out on the Svalbard archipelago, a group of islands half way between Norway and the North Pole, revealed that the problem is more advanced than scientists thought.
Their forecasts suggest that by 2018, 10 per cent of the ocean will be corrosively acidic, rising to 50 per cent in 2050. By 2100 the entire Arctic Ocean will be inhospitable to shellfish, they predict.
"This is extremely worrying," Prof Gattuso told the Oceans of Tomorrow conference in Barcelona. "We knew that the seas were getting more acidic and this would disrupt the ability of shellfish – like mussels – to grow their shells. But now we realise the situation is much worse."