Bad surprise: Israeli research has found large amounts of mineral matter in the eastern Mediterranean whose formation process releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. What it means? That our ocean emits more greenhouse gases than we thought until now
There are times when nature itself is our laboratory: within a certain area several factors combine to create a phenomenon that may teach us things we did not know. The same goes for the eastern Mediterranean region - our sea, along the coast of Israel: the unique conditions in it, which include relatively poor water with animal activity, at the same time as extensive human intervention (such as Construction of the Aswan Dam on the Nile), which changed the composition of the water in the region - make it a kind of "living laboratory" for studying the effects of the climate crisis on the seas and oceans.
The same "laboratory" recently provided alarming findings: A new Israeli study He found that increasing warming in the eastern Mediterranean accelerates the formation of a crystalline mineral of the aragonite type, the formation of which releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This means that the Eastern Mediterranean region is emitting larger amounts than we think of the main greenhouse gas exacerbating the climate crisis.
The oceans and seas are key factors in regulating carbon dioxide for the balance of our planet's climate; Therefore, according to Dr. Or Bialik, a researcher at Haifa University as part of a project EMS FORE (which uses the Eastern Mediterranean Sea as a model for the future of the oceans) and a research fellow at the University of Münster in Germany, who led the research in collaboration with Seas and Lakes Research for Israel - this phenomenon must be looked at as part of a whole. "It's a symptom of the crisis more than a disease in itself," he explains. "Israel is a model for what is happening in the entire world."
Like a soda bottle in the backseat
Before diving into the research findings, there are a few things that are important to understand about carbon dioxide. First, water has a higher capacity than the atmosphere to absorb this gas; Second, hot water is less effective in "holding" gases; Anyone who has forgotten a bottle of soda in the back seat of their car can probably testify to that. Therefore, as long as the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is higher - the water (oceans and seas) will absorb it. But when the temperature of the water, in the days and in the oceans, rises, as a part global temperature rise - Their ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the air is impaired.
These two characteristics are reflected in the current state of our sea, which, according to Bialik, reaches very high temperatures of 32-31 degrees in the summer. How serious is the situation? Studies of the study of seas and lakes for Israel show that in the last 40 years an increase of 4-2 degrees was measured in the water temperature in our region; This is a very significant change, which has serious consequences. "Due to the warming, the sea's ability to absorb the gas was damaged - and today the eastern Mediterranean region has stopped absorbing carbon dioxide," explains Bialik.
And this is not the only problem: not only is the sea "locked" to carbon dioxide, it also continues to emit it into the atmosphere, and at an increased rate. "A positive feeding loop is created here (a situation in which two processes exacerbate each other at an increasing rate - n.a.): the process of water warming, which occurs as part of the rise in global temperatures, causes the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and the emission of the gas into the air contributes to the warming," says Bialik . "It's a process that feeds itself."
Who are you, Argonite?
So where do the aragonite crystals come in here? First of all, there are two things that are important for us to know about them, and their connection to our sea: first, the mineral in question is the material from which oysters and corals build their skeletons. The second, in the eastern Mediterranean there is no significant growth of oysters and corals. And this is where the researchers come in. "Due to this gap, we came to the conclusion that this is not a biological phenomenon, i.e. the product of animal activity, but a chemical phenomenon - that is, a change in the properties of the sea, which creates the aragonite," explains Bialik.
According to Bialik, the presence of aragonite in our region provides insight into how the climate crisis is changing the chemistry of the water. "In the summer, a difference of 8 degrees is measured in the Mediterranean Sea between the uppermost part of the water and the lower parts of the sea," he testifies. "Aside from the processes of a decrease in the acidity of the water, conditions are created in which aragonite can form." In other words, the sea becomes so hot that its chemical properties begin to change, and it produces these crystals itself, in a chemical process that causes a side effect: the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which the researchers estimate constitutes about 15 percent of the total carbon dioxide emissions that the Mediterranean Sea emits .
It should be noted that this is not a new phenomenon: the aragonite was previously observed in the Persian Gulf and in the Bahamas, where the crystals formed a kind of white cloud layer on the surface of the water. We did not observe such a layer, and precisely because of this the researchers believe that it may be a much wider phenomenon. That is, in some cases the aragonite does not give us clear "clues", above the water, but the very fact that we do not see it immediately - does not necessarily indicate that it does not exist.
In addition, as mentioned, the waters of our sea are low in biological activity (which includes, among others, algae and microscopic animals), therefore they allow us to isolate such phenomena optimally. Therefore, according to Bialik, it was the researchers' focus on Israel's shores that allowed them to identify its presence in the eastern Mediterranean.
A ray of light in a black cloud
Bottom line, as mentioned, the eastern Mediterranean emits a larger amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than we thought, which is not good at all. However, despite the disturbing finding of his research, Bialik also offers an optimistic angle.
"At some point we will have so much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that it will cause a process in which this mechanism will break," he explains. "In such a situation, some of the minerals such as aragonite will melt, and this will slightly increase the ability of the oceans to absorb carbon dioxide again."
Yes, this is a small consolation, Bialik also testifies to this. "It's a faint ray of light in a very black cloud," he says. "In the next hundred years we will have to continue to closely follow the changes, and see what the effects of this process are. I believe that the more we find out about the issue - we will probably be more worried." And so that the rays of light that Bialik talks about will continue to grow - we too have a role to play: to fight the climate crisis, which is exacerbating the condition of our sea, and the condition of the creatures that live in it and beside it.
More of the topic in Hayadan:
- The earliest evidence of aquaculture 3,500 years ago - in the eastern Mediterranean
- The floor of the eastern Mediterranean preserves an ancient ocean
- The drought in the eastern Mediterranean - the worst in the last 900 years
- Salt-loving bacteria have been found in an extreme environment in the eastern Mediterranean
- A research grant will assist in understanding the formation of the Eastern Mediterranean