Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Increased Ocean Acidification In Alaska Waters, New Findings Show

Date:
August 14, 2009
Source:
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Summary:
The same things that make Alaska's marine waters among the most productive in the world may also make them the most vulnerable to ocean acidification. According to new findings, Alaska's oceans are becoming increasingly acidic, which could damage Alaska's king crab and salmon fisheries.

The pteropod (also known as a sea butterfly or swimming sea snail) may be one of the first marine organisms affected by ocean acidification. Pteropods make up nearly half of the pink salmon diet. This particular pteropod is the Limacina helicina helicina.
Credit: Photo by Russ Hopcroft, UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences

The same things that make Alaska's marine waters among the most productive in the world may also make them the most vulnerable to ocean acidification. According to new findings by a University of Alaska Fairbanks scientist, Alaska's oceans are becoming increasingly acidic, which could damage Alaska's king crab and salmon fisheries.

This spring, chemical oceanographer Jeremy Mathis returned from a cruise armed with seawater samples collected from the depths of the Gulf of Alaska. When he tested the samples' acidity in his lab, the results were higher than expected. They show that ocean acidification is likely more severe and is happening more rapidly in Alaska than in tropical waters. The results also matched his recent findings in the Chukchi and Bering Seas.

"It seems like everywhere we look in Alaska's coastal oceans, we see signs of increased ocean acidification," said Mathis.

Often referred to as the "sister problem to climate change," ocean acidification is a term to describe increasing acidity in the world's oceans. The ocean absorbs carbon dioxide from the air. As the ocean absorbs more carbon dioxide, seawater becomes more acidic. Scientists estimate that the ocean is 25 percent more acidic today than it was 300 years ago.

"The increasing acidification of Alaska waters could have a destructive effect on all of our commercial fisheries. This is a problem that we have to think about in terms of the next decade instead of the next century," said Mathis.

The ocean contains minerals that organisms like oysters and crabs use to build their shells. Ocean acidification makes it more difficult to build shells, and in some cases the water can become acidic enough to break down existing shells. Mathis' recent research in the Gulf of Alaska uncovered multiple sites where the concentrations of shell-building minerals were so low that shellfish and other organisms in the region would be unable to build strong shells.

"We're not saying that crab shells are going to start dissolving, but these organisms have adapted their physiology to a certain range of acidity. Early results have shown that when some species of crabs and fish are exposed to more acidic water, certain stress hormones increase and their metabolism slows down. If they are spending energy responding to acidity changes, then that energy is diverted away from growth, foraging and reproduction," said Mathis.

Another organism that could be affected by ocean acidification is the tiny pteropod, also known as a sea butterfly or swimming sea snail. The pteropod is at the base of the food chain and makes up nearly half of the pink salmon's diet. A 10 percent decrease in the population of pteropods could mean a 20 percent decrease in an adult salmon's body weight.

"This is a case where we see ocean acidification having an indirect effect on a commercially viable species by reducing its food supply," said Mathis.

The cold waters and broad, shallow continental shelves around Alaska's coast could be accelerating the process of ocean acidification in the North, Mathis said. Cold water can hold more gas than warmer water, which means that the frigid waters off Alaska's coasts can absorb more carbon dioxide. The shallow waters of Alaska's continental shelves also retain more carbon dioxide because there is less mixing of seawater from deeper ocean waters.

Ask any coastal Alaskan and they will tell you that Alaska's waters are teeming with biological life, from tiny plankton to humpback whales. All of these animals use oxygen and emit carbon dioxide. Mathis and other scientists call this the "biological pump."

"We are blessed with highly productive coastal areas that support vast commercial fisheries, but this productivity acts like a pump, absorbing more and more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere," said Mathis. "Because of this, the acidity of Alaska's coastal seas will continue to increase, and likely accelerate, over the next decade."

Mathis said that it is still unclear what the full range of effects of ocean acidification will be, but that it is a clear threat to Alaska's commercial fisheries and subsistence communities.

"We need to give our policy makers and industry managers information and forecasts on ocean acidification in Alaska so they can make decisions that will keep our fisheries viable," said Mathis. "Ecosystems in Alaska are going to take a hit from ocean acidification. Right now, we don't know how they are going to respond."


Story Source:

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


Cite This Page:

University of Alaska Fairbanks. "Increased Ocean Acidification In Alaska Waters, New Findings Show." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 August 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090813163158.htm>.
University of Alaska Fairbanks. (2009, August 14). Increased Ocean Acidification In Alaska Waters, New Findings Show. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090813163158.htm
University of Alaska Fairbanks. "Increased Ocean Acidification In Alaska Waters, New Findings Show." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090813163158.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Stone Fruit Listeria Scare Causes Sweeping Recall

Stone Fruit Listeria Scare Causes Sweeping Recall

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The Wawona Packing Company has issued a voluntary recall on the stone fruit it distributes due to a possible Listeria outbreak. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die

Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die

AP (July 22, 2014) An 80-year-old agave plant, which is blooming for the first and only time at a University of Michigan conservatory, will die when it's done (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Huge Schizophrenia Study Finds Dozens Of New Genetic Causes

Huge Schizophrenia Study Finds Dozens Of New Genetic Causes

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The 83 new genetic markers could open dozens of new avenues for schizophrenia treatment research. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
CDC Head Concerned About a Post-Antibiotic Era

CDC Head Concerned About a Post-Antibiotic Era

AP (July 22, 2014) Sounding alarms about the growing threat of antibiotic resistance, CDC Director Tom Frieden warned Tuesday if the global community does not confront the problem soon, the world will be living in a devastating post-antibiotic era. (July 22) 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:
from the past week

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