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Ocean growing more acidic faster than once thought
Date:11/24/2008

r skeletons made of calcium carbonate, which the acid can dissolve," said Catherine Pfister, Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago and a co-author of the study. "Therefore, the increased acidity of the ocean could interfere with many critical ocean processes such as coral reef building or shellfish harvesting."

Conducted at Tatoosh Island in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Washington, the study documented that the number of mussels and stalked barnacles fell as acidity increased. At the same time, populations of smaller, shelled species and noncalcareous algae increased.

"Models revealed strong links between the dynamics of species living on the shore and variation in ocean pH," Wootton said. "The models project substantial shifts in the species dominating the habitat as a consequence of both the direct effects of reduced calcification and indirect effects arising from the web of species interactions."

The study, "Dynamical Patterns and Ecological Impacts of Declining Ocean pH in a High-Resolution Multi-Year Dataset," will be published in the Dec. 2 issue of PNAS. The third co-author, James Forester, was at the University of Chicago's Department of Ecology and Evolution but is currently at Harvard University.

"To date there is a lack of information about how the ocean carbon cycle has changed in recent years," Pfister said. "Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations will continue to increase, and our work points to the urgent need to better understand the ocean pH changes that this is likely to drive as well as how these changes will affect marine life."


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Contact: Greg Borzo
gregborzo@uchicago.edu
773-702-8366
University of Chicago
Source:Eurekalert  

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