Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ocean Growing More Acidic Faster Than Once Thought; Increasing Acidity Threatens Sea Life

Date:
November 26, 2008
Source:
University of Chicago
Summary:
Scientists have documented that the ocean is growing more acidic faster than previously thought. In addition, they have found that the increasing acidity correlates with increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. The increasingly acidic water harms certain sea animals and could reduce the ocean's ability to absorb carbon dioxide.

Dead mussels as well as live mussels with open, eroded shells are possible symptoms of stress from declining ocean pH and increasing acidity.
Credit: C.A. Pfister, University of Chicago

University of Chicago scientists have documented that the ocean is growing more acidic faster than previously thought. In addition, they have found that the increasing acidity correlates with increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, according to a paper published online by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Nov. 24.

Related Articles


"Of the variables the study examined that are linked to changes in ocean acidity, only atmospheric carbon dioxide exhibited a corresponding steady change," said J. Timothy Wootton, the lead author of the study and Professor of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago.

The increasingly acidic water harms certain sea animals and could reduce the ocean's ability to absorb carbon dioxide, the authors said. Scientists have long predicted that higher levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide would make the ocean more acidic. Nevertheless, empirical evidence of growing acidity has been limited.

The new study is based on 24,519 measurements of ocean pH spanning eight years, which represents the first detailed dataset on variations of coastal pH at a temperate latitude—where the world's most productive fisheries live.

"The acidity increased more than 10 times faster than had been predicted by climate change models and other studies," Wootton said. "This increase will have a severe impact on marine food webs and suggests that ocean acidification may be a more urgent issue than previously thought, at least in some areas of the ocean."

The ocean plays a significant role in global carbon cycles. When atmospheric carbon dioxide dissolves in water it forms carbonic acid, increasing the acidity of the ocean. During the day, carbon dioxide levels in the ocean fall because photosynthesis takes it out of the water, but at night, levels increase again. The study documented this daily pattern, as well as a steady increase in acidity over time.

"Many sea creatures have shells or 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."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Chicago. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Chicago. "Ocean Growing More Acidic Faster Than Once Thought; Increasing Acidity Threatens Sea Life." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 November 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081124141053.htm>.
University of Chicago. (2008, November 26). Ocean Growing More Acidic Faster Than Once Thought; Increasing Acidity Threatens Sea Life. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081124141053.htm
University of Chicago. "Ocean Growing More Acidic Faster Than Once Thought; Increasing Acidity Threatens Sea Life." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081124141053.htm (accessed October 30, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Mudslide in Sri Lanka Buries Houses

Deadly Mudslide in Sri Lanka Buries Houses

AP (Oct. 29, 2014) A mudslide triggered by monsoon rains buried scores of workers' houses at a tea plantation in central Sri Lanka on Wednesday, killing at least 10 people and leaving more than 250 missing, an official said. (Oct. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Galapagos Tortoises Bounce Back, But Ecosystem Lags

Galapagos Tortoises Bounce Back, But Ecosystem Lags

Newsy (Oct. 29, 2014) The Galapagos tortoise has made a stupendous recovery from the brink of extinction to a population of more than 1,000. But it still faces threats. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Saharan Solar Project to Power Europe

Saharan Solar Project to Power Europe

Reuters - Business Video Online (Oct. 29, 2014) A solar energy project in the Tunisian Sahara aims to generate enough clean energy by 2018 to power two million European homes. Matt Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: The US Will Not 'run and Hide' From Ebola

Obama: The US Will Not 'run and Hide' From Ebola

AP (Oct. 29, 2014) Surrounded by health care workers in the White House East Room, President Barack Obama said the U.S. will likely see additional Ebola cases in the weeks ahead. But he said the nation can't seal itself off in the fight against the disease. (Oct. 29) Video provided by AP
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