Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Environmental sciences

Ships acidify oceans

Highly read on

Pollution from ships can make the waters of heavily trafficked trade routes more acidic, and may contribute to local acidification on a scale similar to that resulting from increased atmospheric carbon dioxide.

David Turner at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden and his colleagues modelled the effects of shipping emissions in the world's waters using grids of 1 degree longitude and latitude. This fine detail suggested that ships' emissions of sulphur oxide and nitrogen oxide acidify the water in some busy Northern Hemisphere coastal areas by up to 0.002 pH units each summer. Regulations that allow ships to reduce emissions to the air by 'scrubbing' fuel exhaust with sea water may accelerate acidification by transferring acid to surface waters.

Although not a significant driver of ocean acidification globally, shipping acidification could be a concern where high traffic occurs near fisheries or important regions of marine biodiversity, the authors say.

Geophys. Res. Lett. 40, 2731–2736 (2013)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Ships acidify oceans. Nature 500, 125 (2013).

Download citation


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing