A research expedition to the Arctic, as part of the Catlin Arctic Survey, has revealed that tiny crustaceans, known as copepods, that live just beneath the ocean surface are likely to battle for survival if ocean acidity continues to rise. The study found that copepods that move large distances, migrating vertically across a wide range of pH conditions, have a better chance of surviving.
The increasing level of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is changing ocean chemistry leading to seawater moving down the pH scale towards acidity. Some areas of the Arctic Ocean are already experiencing the fastest rates of acidification on the planet and, combined with sea-ice loss and warming temperatures, the impacts of climate change are likely to hit Arctic marine life first.
The study is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and was carried out by the University of Exeter and the Plymouth Marine Laboratory. The scientists observed that the natural range of temperature and acidity under the ice that copepods experience on a day-to-day basis corresponded to their responses to the ocean acidification conditions predicted for 100 years' time.
Dr Ceri Lewis from the University of Exeter said: "Our study found that some marine animals may not be able to survive the impact of ocean acidification, particularly the early-life stages. This unique insight into how marine life will respond to future changes in the oceans has implications that reach far beyond the Arctic regions."
Found across the globe, copepods are one of the most abundant marine animals and are a vital food source for a wide variety of other marine life. Copepods can also act as bio-indicators, providing an early warning system for the health of the environment.
Until recently, it has been difficult to document what copepods and other marine life do when the Arctic Ocean is covered by sea ice, and more specific
|Contact: Jo Bowler|
University of Exeter