Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ocean Acidification Could Have Broad Effects On Marine Ecosystems

Date:
December 18, 2008
Source:
University of California - Santa Cruz
Summary:
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 a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and an expert in coral reef ecology and marine biodiversity.

Diatoms, a type of phytoplankton. 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.
Credit: iStockphoto/Nancy Nehring

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."


Story Source:

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


Cite This Page:

University of California - Santa Cruz. "Ocean Acidification Could Have Broad Effects On Marine Ecosystems." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 December 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081217190334.htm>.
University of California - Santa Cruz. (2008, December 18). Ocean Acidification Could Have Broad Effects On Marine Ecosystems. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081217190334.htm
University of California - Santa Cruz. "Ocean Acidification Could Have Broad Effects On Marine Ecosystems." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081217190334.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) He is leading a one man agricultural revolution in Mali - Oumar Diatabe uses traditional farming methods to get the most out of his land and is teaching others across the country how to do the same. Duration: 01:44 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Detroit's Money Woes Led To U.N.-Condemned Water Cutoffs

How Detroit's Money Woes Led To U.N.-Condemned Water Cutoffs

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) The United Nations says water is a human right, but should it be free? Detroit has cut off water to residents who can't pay, and the U.N. isn't happy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

3BL Media (Oct. 20, 2014) Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-fuel Impala Video provided by 3BL
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Rhino's Death In Kenya Means Just 6 Are Left

White Rhino's Death In Kenya Means Just 6 Are Left

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) Suni, a rare northern white rhino at Ol Pejeta Conservancy, died Friday. This, as many media have pointed out, leaves people fearing extinction. Video provided by Newsy
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