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Local factors cause dramatic spikes in coastal ocean acidity
Date:1/2/2014

skeletons. This process is known as ocean acidification.

If current trends continue, experts predict that the mean ocean pH will decrease by about 0.2 units over the next 50 years. A drop of that magnitude could have far-reaching effects on ocean ecosystems and organisms.

"We may see significant changes in biological processes such as primary production," said Dana Hunt, assistant professor of microbial ecology, who co-authored the new study. "Some organisms, such as phytoplankton, may benefit. Many others, including shelled organisms and corals, will not."

The Duke team's analysis showed that a wide range of natural variables, including changes in temperature, algal production and respiration, and water movement caused by tides and storms, triggered sharp spikes in the inlet's acidity. Some changes occurred over the course of a season; others took place on a daily or hourly basis.

"Understanding to what extent pH naturally varies in coastal ecosystems worldwide will be essential for predicting where and when the effects of increasing ocean acidity will be most profound, and what organisms and ecosystems may be most affected," Hunt said. "Our research demonstrates we have to take into account a wide range of environmental variables, not just pH."

The study appears in the peer-reviewed open-access journal PLOS ONE.


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Contact: Tim Lucas
tdlucas@duke.edu
919-613-8084
Duke University
Source:Eurekalert

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