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Ocean acidification: Hard to digest
Date:11/15/2013

15.11.2013/Gteborg, Kiel, Bremerhaven. Ocean acidification impairs digestion in marine organisms, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change. Researchers from Sweden and Germany have studied the larval stage of green sea urchins Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis. The results show that the animals have problems digesting food in acidified water.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions do not only affect the climate but also our seas and oceans. One-quarter of all CO2 released into the atmosphere is absorbed by the oceans. Once there, the CO2 is converted to carbonic acid, making the water more acidic. Previous studies showed that marine species and ecosystems can suffer in an acidified environment. Although the reason for the sensitivity was seen in physiological processes, mechanisms remained unclear. Scientists from the universities of Gothenburg (GU) and Kiel (CAU), as well as GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel and Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) found that ocean acidification leads to reduced rates of digestion in larvae of the ecologically important green sea urchin Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis. The findings are published in the international journal Nature Climate Change.

Dr. Meike Stumpp, former PhD student at GEOMAR and Kiel University and first author of the study, used novel pH micro-electrode techniques and designed new assay methods during her postdoc at the University of Gothenburg to investigate digestion and digestive enzymes in the larvae. She showed that when larvae are exposed to acidified seawater, the digestion takes longer and is less effective. "My measurements demonstrated a very strong pH dependency", Stumpp explains. "The enzymes in the sea urchins' stomachs are optimized to function at very high pH which is different from the situation in mammals, where stomach pH is acidic and enzymes work best at low pH."
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Contact: Maike Nicolai
mnicolai@geomar.de
49-431-600-2807
Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (GEOMAR)
Source:Eurekalert  

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