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New studies needed to predict how marine organisms may adapt to the future's acidic oceans
Date:1/28/2014

SAN FRANCISCO, January 27, 2014 -- The world's oceans are becoming more acidic, changing in a way that hasn't happened for millions of years. But will marine organisms from tiny coccolithophores to king crabs change along with the waters?

SF State Associate Professor of Biology Jonathon Stillman has joined with an international team of scientists in calling for more studies of how these plants and animals might adapt to ocean acidification. Beyond a short-term adjustment to acidic waters, adaptation involves heritable changes in a species brought about by natural selection.

Their article in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution offers "a way to move forward from people studying how organisms react to changes in the environment to being able to understand how they may evolve as the ocean changes," Stillman said.

If plants and animals adapt over time to acidification, they may respond to acidic waters in a much different way than they do in the current oceans, the scientists suggest.

"We really don't need more studies that tell us how an organism is going to respond instantaneously," to acidification, he added. "We need to know how they will really respond in the future and that depends on their capacity for adaptation."

As the Earth's atmosphere becomes increasingly polluted by carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, some of this carbon dioxide interacts with seawater to make it more acidic. Prominent studies within the past two years, including one linking the collapse of Pacific Northwest oyster hatcheries to acid waters, have turned acidification into a commercial and political issue as well as a scientific one.

Many labs are interested in knowing how organisms react to acidic, lower pH water conditions, including Stillman's at the Romberg Tiburon Center, which studies organisms such as coccolithophores and porcelain crabs. Researchers have uncovered a great deal of variety
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Contact: Nan Broadbent
nbroadbe@sfsu.edu
415-338-7108
San Francisco State University
Source:Eurekalert

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