Navigation Links
Ocean acidification could have broad effects on marine ecosystems
Date:12/17/2008

SAN FRANCISCO, CA--Concern about increasing ocean acidification has often focused on its potential effects on coral reefs, but broader disruptions of biological processes in the oceans may be more significant, according to Donald Potts, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and an expert in coral reef ecology and marine biodiversity.

Potts will give an invited talk on "Geobiological Responses to Ocean Acidification" at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco on Wednesday, December 17.

Ocean acidification is one of the side effects of the rising concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere due to the burning of fossil fuels. The oceans can absorb enormous amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but as the gas dissolves it makes the water more acidic. Increasing acidity can make life difficult for corals and other marine organisms that build shells and skeletons out of calcium carbonate.

Scientists fear that acidification will slow the growth of these organisms and cause calcium carbonate structures to dissolve. Potts agrees that dissolving shells will certainly be a problem for many marine organisms, but he thinks the disruptions will run much deeper.

"It's not just a question of coral reefs, and it's not just a question of calcification," he said. "What we are potentially looking at are disruptions of developmental processes and of populations and communities on many scales."

The term "acidification" refers to a slight lowering of the pH of ocean water, pushing it closer to the acidic end of the scale, although it is still slightly alkaline. A small decrease in pH affects the chemical equilibrium of ocean water, reducing the availability of carbonate ions needed by a wide range of organisms to build and maintain structures of calcium carbonate.

Many phytoplankton--microscopic algae that form the base of the marine food web--build calcium carbonate shells to protect themselves from microscopic predators called ciliate protozoa. A disruption of the ability of phytoplankton to build their shells could have ripple effects throughout the marine food web, Potts said.

"It's going to change the dominant organism in the food chain, and there's a very real danger that it may short-circuit the food chains," he said. In other words, ciliate protozoa gorging on unprotected phytoplankton may flourish at the expense of other organisms higher up the food chain.

But calcification of shells is not the only biological process affected by acidification, Potts added. "All biochemical physiological reactions are potentially going to change," he said. Developing organisms are most likely to be affected, due to their low range of environmental tolerances, but it is unclear what the ecological ramifications will be.

Ocean acidification may not affect all parts of the oceans equally. Within 100 kilometers (62 miles) of shore, the pH of ocean water is more variable than in the rest of the ocean. Fresh water and wind from the land can carry chemicals that alter the pH of near-shore water, making it either more acidic or more alkaline. There may be organisms in this region that are already starting to adapt to changes in ocean acidity, Potts said.

"We should be thinking in terms of triage," he said. "We want to be predicting where are the organisms that are most likely to survive or survive the longest, and this is where we should be concentrating our conservation and management efforts, given finite resources."


'/>"/>

Contact: Tim Stephens
stephens@ucsc.edu
831-459-2495
University of California - Santa Cruz
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. TAU scientists probe deep questions aboard EcoOceans environmental research ship
2. NASA celebrates a decade observing climate impacts on health of worlds oceans
3. CO2 emissions could violate EPA ocean-quality standards within decades
4. NASA celebrates a decade observing climate impacts on health of worlds oceans
5. Scientists, policymakers and industry leaders gather to discuss ocean iron fertilization
6. Acid oceans warning
7. Scientists gather in New Zealand to share oceans secrets
8. Unprecedented global measurement network achieves full coverage of oceans
9. Abel to receive posthumous Ocean and Coastal Leadership award
10. Human safety, prosperity depend on better ocean observing system: Scientists
11. Marine scientists warn human safety, prosperity depend on better ocean observing system
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:6/23/2017)... ITHACA, N.Y. , June 23, 2017  IBM ... in dairy research, today announced a new collaboration using ... the chances that the global milk supply is impacted ... project, Cornell University has become the newest academic institution ... Chain, a food safety initiative that includes IBM Research, ...
(Date:5/16/2017)... , May 16, 2017  Veratad Technologies, LLC ( ... online age and identity verification solutions, announced today they ... Conference 2017, May 15 thru May 17, 2017, in ... and International Trade Center. Identity impacts ... and in today,s quickly evolving digital world, defining identity ...
(Date:4/24/2017)... , April 24, 2017 ... and partner with  Identity Strategy Partners, LLP (IdSP) ... "With or without President Trump,s March 6, 2017 ... Terrorist Entry , refugee vetting can be instilled with ... resettlement. (Right now, all refugee applications are suspended ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/10/2017)... International research firm Parks Associates announced today that Tom ... 2017 Annual Meeting , October 11 in Scottsdale, Arizona ... and how smart safety and security products impact the competitive landscape. ... Parks Associates: Smart Home Devices: Main Purchase Driver ... "The residential security market has experienced continued growth, and ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... ... October 10, 2017 , ... USDM Life ... for the life sciences and healthcare industries, announces a presentation by Subbu Viswanathan ... The presentation, “Automating GxP Validation for Agile Cloud Platforms,” will present a revolutionary ...
(Date:10/9/2017)...  BioTech Holdings announced today identification and patenting ... stem cell therapy prevents limb loss in animal ... that treatment with ProCell resulted in more than ... to standard bone marrow stem cell administration.  Interestingly, ... of therapeutic effect.  ...
(Date:10/9/2017)... ... October 09, 2017 , ... At its national board meeting ... a professor in Harvard University’s Departments of Physics and Astronomy, has been selected for ... of the winning team for the 2015 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental physics for the ...
Breaking Biology Technology: