As the level of carbon dioxide in the air increases, more carbon dioxide dissolves into the ocean, making the water more acidic.

Scientists have predicted that the pH of ocean water will fall from 8.1 to eight in the next 20 to 30 years.

Research at several sites, including Bermuda, California and Hawaii, suggested that a drop in the oceans pH would reduce the production of the oxidised forms of nitrogen used by phytoplankton and other microorganisms.

The oxidised nitrogen is usually produced by microscopic organisms through the oxidation of ammonia.

A reduction in these forms of nitrogen in the water would substantially affect phytoplankton species, single celled aquatic ‘plants’.

The decrease would give smaller species of phytoplankton an advantage, which would affect all organisms that rely on phytoplankton for food.

Eventually, this change would affect every species in the marine ecosystem.

Speaking to R&D Magazine, an international research magazine, Dr Beman said: “What makes ocean acidification such a challenging scientific and societal issue is that we’re engaged in a global, unreplicated experiment one that’s difficult to study and has many unknown consequences.”

Previous studies have suggested a drop in the pH of the ocean would have negative effects on calcifying organisms, slowing coral growth.

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