Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Oceans reveal further impacts of climate change

Date:
February 5, 2010
Source:
University of Alabama at Birmingham
Summary:
The increasing acidity of the world's oceans -- and that acidity's growing threat to marine species -- are definitive proof that the atmospheric carbon dioxide that is causing climate change is also negatively affecting the marine environment.

The increasing acidity of the world's oceans -- and that acidity's growing threat to marine species -- are definitive proof that the atmospheric carbon dioxide that is causing climate change is also negatively affecting the marine environment, says Antarctic marine biologist Jim McClintock, Ph.D., professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Department of Biology.

Related Articles


"The oceans are a sink for the carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere," says McClintock, who has spent more than two decades researching the marine species off the coast of Antarctica. Carbon dioxide is absorbed by oceans, and through a chemical process hydrogen ions are released to make seawater more acidic.

"Existing data points to consistently increasing oceanic acidity, and that is a direct result of increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere; it is incontrovertible," McClintock says. "The ramifications for many of the organisms that call the water home are profound."

A substance's level of acidity is measured by its pH value; the lower the pH value, the more acidic is the substance. McClintock says data collected since the pre-industrial age indicates the mean surface pH of the oceans has declined from 8.2 to 8.1 units with another 0.4 unit decline possible by century's end. A single whole pH unit drop would make ocean waters 10 times more acidic, which could rob many marine organisms of their ability to produce protective shells -- and tip the balance of marine food chains.

"There is no existing data that I am aware of that can be used to debate the trend of increasing ocean acidification," he says.

McClintock and three co-authors collected and reviewed the most recent data on ocean acidification at high latitudes for an article in the December 2009 issue of Oceanography magazine, a special issue that focuses on ocean acidification worldwide. McClintock also recently published research that revealed barnacles grown under acidified seawater conditions produce weaker adult shells.

Antarctica as the Ground Zero for Climate Change

McClintock says the delicate balance of life in the waters that surround the frozen continent of Antarctica is especially susceptible to the effects of acidification. The impact on the marine life in that region will serve as a bellwether for global climate-change effects, he says.

"The Southern Ocean is a major global sink for carbon dioxide. Moreover, there are a number of unique factors that threaten to reduce the availability of abundant minerals dissolved in polar seawater that are used by marine invertebrates to make their protective shells," McClintock says.

"In addition, the increased acidity of the seawater itself can literally begin to eat away at the outer surfaces of shells of existing clams, snails and other calcified organisms, which could cause species to die outright or become vulnerable to new predators."

One study McClintock recently conducted with a team of UAB researchers revealed that the shells of post-mortem Antarctic marine invertebrates evidenced erosion and significant loss of mass within only five weeks under simulated acidic conditions.

McClintock says acidification also could exert a toll on the world's fisheries, including mollusks and crustaceans. He adds that the potential loss of such marine populations could greatly alter the oceans' long-standing food chains and produce negative ripple effects on human industries or food supplies over time.

"So many fundamental biological processes can be influenced by ocean acidification, and the change in the oceans' makeup in regions such as Antarctica are projected to occur over a time period measured in decades," McClintock says.

"Evolution simply may be unable to keep up, because it typically takes marine organisms longer periods, hundreds or even thousands of years to naturally adapt," he says. "But ocean acidification is simply happening too quickly for many species to survive unless we reverse the trend of increasing anthropogenically generated carbon dioxide that is in large part driving climate change."


Story Source:

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


Cite This Page:

University of Alabama at Birmingham. "Oceans reveal further impacts of climate change." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 February 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100204144811.htm>.
University of Alabama at Birmingham. (2010, February 5). Oceans reveal further impacts of climate change. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100204144811.htm
University of Alabama at Birmingham. "Oceans reveal further impacts of climate change." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100204144811.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Lava Inches Closer to Highway

Raw: Lava Inches Closer to Highway

AP (Dec. 21, 2014) Officials have opened a new road on Hawaii's Big Island for drivers to take care of their daily needs if encroaching lava from Kilauea Volcano crosses a highway and cuts them off from the rest of the island. (Dec. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Cheap Oil Help Fix U.S. Roads?

Could Cheap Oil Help Fix U.S. Roads?

Newsy (Dec. 21, 2014) As falling oil prices boost Americans' spending power, the U.S. government is also gaining flexibility from savings on oil. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Russian Surfers Brave Icy Cold Waters

Raw: Russian Surfers Brave Icy Cold Waters

AP (Dec. 20, 2014) Surfers in Russia's biggest port city on the Pacific Ocean, Vladivostok, were enjoying the sport on Saturday despite below freezing temperatures and icy cold waters. (Dec. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scuba Diving Santa Off Florida Keys

Raw: Scuba Diving Santa Off Florida Keys

AP (Dec. 20, 2014) A scuba diving Santa Claus explored the waters of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Dive shop owner Spencer Slate makes the dive each year to help raise money for charity. (Dec. 20) 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