The steady acidification of the subarctic region of the Pacific Ocean is causing a significant increase in the production of nitrous oxide, an ozone-depleting greenhouse gas, as per the research. The researchers, including those from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland, studied the production of nitrous oxide near the Kuril Islands and the Hokkaido, disputed territories between Russia and Japan in the northern Pacific Ocean. The increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere due to human activities might increase the acidity of the ocean.
The study, recently published that if pH — which has a scale from zero (which is considered to be the most acidic) to 14 (which is considered to be the most alkaline) — keeps falling at the current rate of 0.0061 units per year, the nitrous oxide generated in this Pacific region may increase by 180 per cent to 495 per cent by 2100. The researchers also stated that the greenhouse effect of nitrous oxide, forming in these regions, is 297 times much greater than carbon dioxide. As part of the research, they collected samples at five different sites off the coast of Japan, from the sub-arctic region to the sub-tropical region. When they reduced the samples’ pH levels, it triggered a natural method in which microbes in the water converted ammonium into nitrous oxide and nitrate.
“Our study provides additional proof that rising carbon dioxide emissions are disrupting natural biogeochemical cycles, which are highly sensitive to changes in the environment. However, our conclusions are valid only for the part of the Pacific that we examined,” said the senior author of the study, Florian Breider from EPFL. Breider said additional research is required to ascertain whether the same method is occurring in other parts of the world. Developing models of this method, taking all ecological variables into account, can help scientists obtain crucial information for predicting the future climate, Breider added.