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First evidence of ocean acidification affecting live marine creatures in the Southern Ocean
Date:11/26/2012

ites, we discovered that this point was reached at 200m depth, through a combination of natural upwelling and ocean acidification. Marine snails pteropods live in this top layer of the ocean. The corrosive properties of the water caused shells of live animals to be severely dissolved and this demonstrates how vulnerable pteropods are. Ocean acidification, resulting from the addition of human-induced carbon dioxide, contributed to this dissolution. "

Co-author and science cruise leader, Dr Geraint Tarling from BAS, says:

"Although the upwelling sites are natural phenomena that occur throughout the Southern Ocean, instances where they bring the 'saturation horizon' above 200m will become more frequent as ocean acidification intensifies in the coming years. As one of only a few oceanic creatures that build their shells out of aragonite in the polar regions, pteropods are an important food source for fish and birds as well as a good indicator of ecosystem health. The tiny snails do not necessarily die as a result of their shells dissolving, however it may increase their vulnerability to predation and infection consequently having an impact to other parts of the food web."

Co-author, Dr Dorothee Bakker from the University of East Anglia, says:

"Climate models project a continued intensification in Southern Ocean winds throughout the 21st century if atmospheric carbon dioxide continues to increase. In turn, this will increase wind-driven upwelling and potentially make instances of deep water which is under-saturated in aragonite penetrating into the upper ocean more frequent. Current predictions are for the 'saturation horizon' for aragonite to reach the upper surface layers of the Southern Ocean by 2050 in winter and by 2100 year round. "

This research was funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the European Union Marie Curie Early Stage Training Network.


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Contact: Audrey Stevens
auev@bas.ac.uk
44-012-232-21414
British Antarctic Survey
Source:Eurekalert

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