Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Run-off, emissions deliver double whammy to coastal marine creatures, study finds

Date:
October 24, 2011
Source:
University of Georgia
Summary:
Increasing acidification in coastal waters could compromise the ability of oysters and other marine creatures to form and keep their shells, according to a new study.

University of Georgia marine sciences professor Wei-Jun Cai stands on a research vessel in the northern Gulf of Mexico.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Georgia

Increasing acidification in coastal waters could compromise the ability of oysters and other marine creatures to form and keep their shells, according to a new study led by University of Georgia researchers.

Related Articles


Their findings will be published in the November 2011 issue of Nature Geoscience. The researchers determined the combined effects of fertilizer runoff carried by the Mississippi River to the northern Gulf of Mexico and excess atmospheric carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels result in an unexpected increase in the acidity of Gulf waters.

"Before, scientists only worried about low oxygen in waters along the coast," said Wei-Jun Cai, a professor of marine sciences in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. "Our paper basically says not only do we need to worry about low oxygen, we also need to worry about acidification."

When plumes of river water rich with nutrients from fertilizer run into coastal waters, phytoplankton thrives. When these algae die, they sink to the sea floor and decompose, releasing carbon dioxide and decreasing the amount of oxygen in the water. The dissolved carbon dioxide reacts with water, forming an acid.

Ocean acidity also increases when excess carbon dioxide released by burning fossil fuels is absorbed from the air at the ocean's surface. The combination of these two sources of carbon dioxide decreases the ocean's ability to neutralize acid, increasing acidity beyond what would be expected from the sum of the individual processes.

As the water becomes more acidic, sea creatures that form carbonate shells or skeletons -- from single-celled amoebae to oysters to corals -- are less able to produce and maintain these structures. If the acidity of coastal waters continues to increase, Cai and his co-workers predict that by the end of the century these creatures won't be able to form shells.

"Many of our fisheries resources, especially shellfish, are concentrated in areas where rivers discharge onto the coast, like the northern Gulf and the East China Sea, and thus are at risk," said James T. Hollibaugh, UGA Distinguished Research Professor of marine sciences. "And of course there are likely ramifications for fish and animals further up the food chain that depend on these same shellfish for food."

Hollibaugh collaborated with Cai on the project, along with UGA post-doctoral researcher Xinping Hu, graduate students Wei-Jen Huang and Yongchen Wang and doctoral graduate Pingsan Zhao. Additional authors on the paper include Michael C. Murrell and John C. Lehrter of the Environmental Protection Agency Gulf Ecology Division; Steven Lohrenz of University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth; Wen-Chen Chou and Gwo-Ching Gong of the National Taiwan Ocean University; Weidong Zhai, Minhan Dai and Xianghu Guo of Xiamen University; and Kjell Gundersen of the University of Southern Mississippi.

Although their research focused on Gulf of Mexico coastal waters, they extended their findings globally by making the same measurements on the Changjaing (Yangtze) River, the largest river in Asia, where they found similar results.

To minimize future damage to the coastal ocean, Cai and his colleagues recommend that farmers better manage fertilizer use and societies limit fossil fuel use. Their future research will explore seasonal patterns of acidification and its influence on the coastal ecosystem.

Cai's research on the Mississippi River was funded by grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Research on the East China Sea was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the National Basic Research Program of China and the National Science Council of the Republic of China.

For more information on the UGA department of marine sciences, see http://www.marsci.uga.edu/.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Georgia. The original article was written by Chelsea Toledo. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Wei-Jun Cai, Xinping Hu, Wei-Jen Huang, Michael C. Murrell, John C. Lehrter, Steven E. Lohrenz, Wen-Chen Chou, Weidong Zhai, James T. Hollibaugh, Yongchen Wang, Pingsan Zhao, Xianghui Guo, Kjell Gundersen, Minhan Dai, Gwo-Ching Gong. Acidification of subsurface coastal waters enhanced by eutrophication. Nature Geoscience, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1297

Cite This Page:

University of Georgia. "Run-off, emissions deliver double whammy to coastal marine creatures, study finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 October 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111024113100.htm>.
University of Georgia. (2011, October 24). Run-off, emissions deliver double whammy to coastal marine creatures, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111024113100.htm
University of Georgia. "Run-off, emissions deliver double whammy to coastal marine creatures, study finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111024113100.htm (accessed November 24, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, November 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Stray Dog Follows Adventure Racing Team for 6-Day Endurance Race

Stray Dog Follows Adventure Racing Team for 6-Day Endurance Race

Buzz60 (Nov. 24, 2014) A Swedish Adventure racing team travels to try and win a world title, but comes home with something way better: a stray dog that joined the team for much of the grueling 430-mile race. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Red Panda Cubs Explore the Bratislava Zoo

Red Panda Cubs Explore the Bratislava Zoo

AFP (Nov. 24, 2014) Four-month old Red Panda twins Pim and Pam still rely on their mother for breast milk at the Bratislava Zoo in Slovakia, but the precocious cubs have begun to branch out to solid foods, as well. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Newsy (Nov. 24, 2014) A new study links greater authority with increased depressive symptoms among women in the workplace. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Newsy (Nov. 23, 2014) Millions of American suffer from seasonal depression every year. It can lead to adverse health effects, but there are ways to ease symptoms. 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