Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Report Warns About Carbon Dioxide Threats To Marine Life

Date:
July 5, 2006
Source:
National Center For Atmospheric Research
Summary:
Worldwide emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning are dramatically altering ocean chemistry and threatening marine organisms, including corals, that secrete skeletal structures and support oceanic biodiversity. A landmark report released today summarizes the known effects of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide on these organisms, known as marine calcifiers, and recommends future research for determining the extent of the impacts.

Coral reef organisms and the reefs that they build are both affected by ocean acidification.
Credit: Photo courtesy of Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

Worldwide emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning are dramatically altering ocean chemistry and threatening marine organisms, including corals, that secrete skeletal structures and support oceanic biodiversity. A landmark report released July 5 summarizes the known effects of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide on these organisms, known as marine calcifiers, and recommends future research for determining the extent of the impacts.

Related Articles


"It is clear that seawater chemistry will change in coming decades and centuries in ways that will dramatically alter marine life," says Joan Kleypas, the report's lead author and a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder. "But we are only beginning to understand the complex interactions between large-scale chemistry changes and marine ecology. It is vital to develop research strategies to better understand the long-term vulnerabilities of sensitive marine organisms to these changes."

The report, "Impacts of Ocean Acidification on Coral Reefs and Other Marine Calcifiers," warns that oceans worldwide absorbed approximately 118 billion metric tons of carbon between 1800 and 1994. Oceans are naturally alkaline, and they are expected to remain so, but the interaction with carbon dioxide is making them less alkaline and more acidic. The increased acidity lowers the concentration of carbonate ion, a building block of the calcium carbonate that many marine organisms use to grow their skeletons and create coral reef structures.

"This is leading to the most dramatic changes in marine chemistry in at least the past 650,000 years," says Richard Feely, one of the authors and an oceanographer at NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) in Seattle.

The report follows a workshop funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and hosted by the U.S. Geological Service Integrated Science Center in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Slowing skeletal growth

Experimental studies, such as those conducted by one of the report's authors, Chris Langdon at the University of Miami, show that coral calcification consistently decreases as the oceans become more acidic. This means that these organisms will grow more slowly, or their skeletons will become less dense, a process similar to osteoporosis in humans. As a result, reef structures are threatened because corals may be unable to build reefs as fast as erosion wears away the reefs.

"This threat is hitting coral reefs at the same time that they are being hit by warming-induced mass bleaching events," Langdon says. Mass bleaching occurs when unusually warm temperatures cause the coral to expel the colorful microscopic algae that provide the coral polyps with food.

Many calcifying organisms—including marine plankton such as pteropods, a planktonic marine snail—are affected by the chemistry changes. Shelled pteropods are an important food source for salmon, mackerel, herring, and cod. If calcifying organisms such as pteropods are unable to sustain their populations, many other species may be affected.

"Decreased calcification in marine algae and animals is likely to impact marine food webs and has the potential to substantially alter the biodiversity and productivity of the ocean," says Victoria Fabry of California State University, San Marcos, who is another of the report's authors.

Threats to major ecosystems

Several other major ecosystems that are supported by marine calcifiers may be particularly threatened by ocean acidification. These include cold-water reefs, which are extensive structures that provide habitat for many important fish species, particularly in the coastal waters of Alaska.

The report outlines future research to understand this consequence of climate change. While scientists cannot yet fully predict how much marine calcification rates will change in the future, the report warns that the more critical question is: "What does this mean in terms of organism fitness and the future of marine ecosystems?"

Lisa Robbins of the U.S. Geological Service Center for Coastal and Watershed Studies and Chris Sabine of NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory also co-authored the report.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Center For Atmospheric Research. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Center For Atmospheric Research. "Report Warns About Carbon Dioxide Threats To Marine Life." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 July 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/07/060705083057.htm>.
National Center For Atmospheric Research. (2006, July 5). Report Warns About Carbon Dioxide Threats To Marine Life. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/07/060705083057.htm
National Center For Atmospheric Research. "Report Warns About Carbon Dioxide Threats To Marine Life." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/07/060705083057.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 19, 2014) Millions of monarch butterflies begin to descend onto Mexico as part of their annual migration south. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Newsy (Dec. 19, 2014) A new study suggests a certain type of bird was able to sense a tornado outbreak that moved through the U.S. a day before it hit. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins