The gradual increase of acid in the oceans threatens coastal communities in 15 states, although the reason for the impact — and what to do about it — varies widely, according to a new study.

Writing in the journal Nature Climate Change, a group of researchers declared ocean acidification “a complex and seemingly overwhelming problem.” That’s partly because of its varied nature, and partly because of big gaps in what is known about it.

States are at risk, according to the study, because of straight economic factors — the size of their seafood industry, for example — as well as their “adaptive capacity,” which the authors said is how adaptable states are to change and how prepared governments and economies are for it.

It’s why states such as Washington, which reacted swiftly when ocean acidification damaged its oyster industry, might be economically vulnerable but don’t rank high on the authors’ “social vulnerability” scale. And it’s why states along the Gulf of Mexico do rank high.

They have communities dependent on shellfish for economic survival, but governments that haven’t done much to counteract acidification, according to Lisa Suatoni, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Ocean acidification is sometimes referred to as “the other carbon dioxide problem,” and it’s exactly what the name implies: the gradual increase of acid in the world’s waters.

It’s fueled by the burning of fossil fuels and the massive amounts of carbon that releases. Additional acid makes it hard for some species to develop the shells they need to survive.

Tribune News Service