Gardeners and farmers recognize the importance of a healthy environment when expecting to harvest high-quality fruits, vegetables, and flowers. However, ocean acidification can have subtle but far-reaching effects for those involved in horticulture that are not always easy to spot. Despite being an issue often associated with marine life rather than gardening, it is becoming increasingly clear that this phenomenon carries serious implications for outdoor plant aficionados around the world. Below we’ll have a look at what ocean acidification is and how it affects gardeners and their beloved green spaces.
What is Ocean Acidification?
Ocean acidification occurs when excess carbon dioxide accumulates in our oceans, causing the pH of seawater to fall and become increasingly acidic. This affects more than just coral reefs; aquatic ecosystems far away from reef habitats can also face increased acidity levels which has a ripple effect on heavier marine life like fish as well as smaller organisms essential for maintaining equilibrium within marine food chains.
Additionally, this process means that the acidification will eventually seep into water bodies and garden beds alike with devastating effects.
Will Ocean Acidification Cause Acidic Rain?
No, ocean acidification is not considered a cause of acidic rain. The contributing factors that create acid rain are the same as what is causing the rise in ocean acidity. In fact, acid rainfall is currently considered to be a contributing factor to ocean acidification, particularly in coastal areas. Studies are ongoing to determine if a long-term rise in ocean acidity will see the pH level of rainwater increase.
Why is Ocean Acidification Bad for Gardeners?
Ocean acidification is bad for gardeners because it’s bad for the soil. Although some plants and flowers such as foxgloves like slightly acidic soil, overly acidic soils are less hospitable to plant life and can even lead to the leaching of nutrients from the soil. This makes it difficult or impossible to grow certain types of plants in these areas and can also cause problems with soil erosion.
In addition, ocean acidification will have a negative impact on the food chain. Food chains are extremely important in all ecosystems and ocean acidification will disrupt that balance which will include many animals including pollinators such as bees.
What Can We Do to Stop Ocean Acidification?
Aside from attending the International Symposium on the Oceans in a High CO2 World, as gardeners, there isn’t a whole lot we can do to stop ocean acidification individually, it will require a concerted global effort but there are a few things we can do at home to contribute.
1 – Use Electric Power Tools
One thing we can do to reduce our carbon emissions and therefore reduce the acidification of our oceans is to use electric tools rather than petrol-powered ones. As technology is improving, so is the quality of our power tools. Items such as lawnmowers, hedge trimmers and strimmers can all be operated with electricity instead of petrol.
2 – Compost
I’m sure that most of you reading this will already be composting as much as possible and this is an obvious one. The more that we can do ourselves will save garden waste from having to be collected by large lorries and going to recycling centres or even ending up in a landfill.
We advise keeping a wormery composter alongside your regular composting so that all food waste can be recycled too!
3 – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
We should also recycle as much as possible to keep waste out of landfills, which would otherwise release methane – a potent greenhouse gas – into the atmosphere.
Almost everything can be reused or repurposed in the garden for one job or another and if it can’t, ensure that it goes into the correct collection bin for recycling.
4 – Get a Wind Turbine or Solar Panels
Ultimately, the best way to stop ocean acidification is to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and switch to renewable energy sources like solar and wind power.
Having your own solar panels or wind turbines is obviously not always practical but there have been community projects that you could initiate or get involved in yourself.
5 – Collect Rainwater for Our Gardens
Collecting rainwater is not only a sustainable way to water our plants but also helps in reducing the demand for our local water supplies. When we use less water from our taps, we reduce the amount of energy needed to treat and deliver that water, which typically comes from fossil fuels. By having a water butt setting up a rainwater collection system, we can directly reduce our carbon footprint. Rain barrels or larger cisterns can be set up to catch rainwater from rooftops. This water can then be used for watering plants, washing cars, or even flushing toilets.
Additionally: Using rainwater for our gardens helps in maintaining the natural pH balance of the soil, which is beneficial for plants.
6 – Plant More Trees
Trees act as carbon sinks, absorbing more carbon dioxide than they release. By planting trees in our gardens or supporting reforestation projects, we can directly contribute to reducing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, one of the primary causes of ocean acidification.
7. Create a Wildlife Pond
Creating a wildlife pond can go towards helping absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. Not only does this help with CO2 build-up, but water features are also beautiful and attract wildlife into your garden.
Ocean acidification is an incredibly concerning and important environmental problem. It occurs when the pH of the ocean water decreases as a result of higher levels of carbon dioxide being absorbed into it. This absorption causes the ocean to become more acidic, which has severe consequences for both aquatic and land-based creatures. Gardeners should be particularly concerned about this phenomenon because acidification will eventually have profoundly negative impacts on soil quality. If not taken into account, gardeners can end up with poor yields due to issues such as nutrient leaching, lower crop health, increased pest attacks, and reduced microbial activity in their soils. Sustainable practices that reduce carbon emissions and marine pollution are essential to halt or reverse ocean acidification in order to ensure healthy garden harvests in the future.
Garden Doctor Tips
“Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – If we all do our bit, we can help reduce emissions!”
“Use electric power tools, even if you go back to using the old, wired lawnmowers, you will be doing your bit!”
“If it can be composted, compost it! It might be a good idea to get yourself a wormery too so not even food waste has to be thrown away. You will get some nice fertiliser in the process too!”
Frequently Asked Questions
What causes ocean acidification?
Ocean acidification is a result of the increase of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. The ocean currently absorbs about a quarter of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, and this absorption is causing the pH of seawater to decline and making the ocean more acidic. The increased acidity from CO2 absorption lowers the pH of seawater, making it harder for marine life and coral to thrive in those waters.
How does ocean acidification affect plants?
One of the most worrying aspects of ocean acidification is that it will gradually change the pH of soil, making it more acidic. This will have a number of impacts on plants, including:
- Reduced growth and fertility
- Weakened ability to resist pests and diseases
- Reduced uptake of nutrients from the soil
This could lead to widespread damage to plant life in coastal areas, with serious consequences for the local ecosystem and human populations who rely on it for food and livelihoods.
Can ocean acidification be stopped?
Yes, ocean acidification can be stopped through a variety of methods. One method is to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.
This can be done by promoting the use of renewable energy sources and by increasing energy efficiency.
Another method is to establish marine protected areas where fishing and other human activities are restricted. This will help to protect coral reefs and other ecosystems that buffer the ocean against acidification.
Finally, we can also promote ocean alkalinization by enhancing natural carbon sequestration processes. This could be done through things like land-based sequestration or geoengineering technologies that inject alkaline materials into the atmosphere.
Joel Durrant is a published author and keen gardener. He is also a student of oceanography – looking at the effects of ocean acidification and land-based plant life. Joel has always been fascinated by the natural world, and he loves nothing more than spending time in his garden or exploring the coastline near his home.