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More acidic ocean could spell trouble for marine life's earliest stages
Date:7/31/2008

of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, not the absolute level," Havenhand said. "To put it simply, the carbon dioxide is rising too quickly for the ocean's natural buffering system to catch up."

Earlier studies had primarily focused on the responses of adult stages of calcifying taxa including mollusks and corals to gross pH changes more relevant for the years 2200 to 2400. There had been scant evidence for the effects of ocean acidification on the very earliest life-stages (including fertilization) in marine animals, with most previous work examining pH changes far greater than those now tested.

They show that the upper limit of acidity levels predicted in the coming centurywhich have already been measured in some locations on the US West Coastsignificantly reduce the swimming speed and motility of sperm from the sea urchin, Heliocidaris erythrogramma, leading to a 25 percent reduction in their fertilization success.

" We need to begin to respond globally to counteract the coming impacts of ocean acidification, an effort requiring at least as much global participation as current efforts to stem carbon dioxide emissions," Havenhand said. "I really hope I'm wrong about the broader implications of our work. However, the available evidence points to the conclusion that at present acidification is the biggest threat to the long-term viability of our ocean ecosystems and especially to key invertebrate species that maintain many of the marine ecosystems on which we rely for food, protection, and recreation."


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Contact: Cathleen Genova
cgenova@cell.com
617-397-2802
Cell Press
Source:Eurekalert

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