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Correlation and Causation

Correlation means that two trends go together; causation means that one of those trends causes the other.

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Why It Matters

Are pearls a thing of the past?

Oyster farmers have noticed major increases in the mortality rates of oyster larvae and have attributed this drop-off to high levels of carbon dioxide gas dissolved in the seawater. Check it out: http://e360.yale.edu/feature/northwest_oyster_die-offs_show_ocean_acidification_has_arrived/2466/

This data adds to the already running debate regarding the effect of ocean acidification on corals: Whither the Coral Reefs?

What do you think? Do you see a correlation between the increase in dissolved carbon dioxide gas in the oceans and the survival rates of oysters and corals? Is there enough data to support the thinking that the increase in carbon dioxide in the oceans directly caused the collapse of the corals and oysters?

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1. For a deeper look into the ocean acidification process take a look at this diagram that shows the chemical process that takes place as atmospheric carbon dioxide is absorbed into the ocean :

As the level of carbon dioxide increases, what happens to the amount of calcium carbonate? Create a visual model that shows this cause and effect relationship.

For additional information about this process, check out this booklet: Starting With Science

2. Compare our understanding of ocean circulation as a conveyor belt (http://youtu.be/3niR_-Kv4SM) to the animation below of the past, current, and projected future ocean acidification:


Describe three similarities that you notice between global ocean circulation and global ocean acidification. Can you think of a reason for these similarities?

3. Scientists know that dramatic influxes of carbon dioxide in the past have led to mass extinctions and are curious about the current marine life’s response to the rapid increase in carbon dioxide levels. In the summer of 2011, oceanographers and biologists studied marine life off of the coast of Norway: The Chemical Ocean Acid Test

For further information, here is an interview of a marine scientist from the University of Plymouth, Dr. Hall-Spencer: http://oceanacidification.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/sin-podcast-jason-hall-spencer-on-ocean-acidification-audio/

4. Are there other ingredients in the ocean that could also be playing a factor? Geotraces is an international organization that collects data on ocean chemistry to learn more about the past, present, and future of the oceans. Here is an interview of research being done: Elements in the Ocean

Here is a link to current research findings: Science Highlights

Resources Cited

The Tedster. Flickr. http://www.flickr.com/photos/tjerrettenns/3217129304/sizes/o/

Environment 360. Yale University. http://e360.yale.edu/feature/northwest_oyster_die-offs_show_ocean_acidification_has_arrived/2466/

Sherry Baker. Discover Magazine. http://discovermagazine.com/2008/jun/05-whither-the-coral-reefs/?searchterm=coral%20reefs

The National Academies. http://oceanacidification.nas.edu/?page_id=29


NASA. YouTube. http://youtu.be/3niR_-Kv4SM

NOAA. http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/co2/story/OA+Educational+Tools


Jennifer Barone. Discover Magazine. http://discovermagazine.com/2011/mar/17-chemical-ocean-acid-test/?searchterm=ocean

EPOCA. http://oceanacidification.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/sin-podcast-jason-hall-spencer-on-ocean-acidification-audio/

NOVA. PBS. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/physics/elements-in-the-ocean.html

Geotraces. http://www.geotraces.org/science/science-highlight

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