Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Glimpse into the future of acidic oceans shows ecosystems transformed

Date:
July 8, 2013
Source:
University of California - Davis
Summary:
In the waters surrounding Castello Aragonese, a 14th century castle off the coast of Italy, volcanic vents naturally release bubbles of carbon dioxide gas, creating different levels of acidity among the marine-animal and plant communities there. These gradients of acidity gave scientists a glimpse of what a future marked by increasingly acidic ocean waters could look like, and how the creatures and plants living in those environments may react to it.

A zone of ambient acidity shows algae growth. In waters with lower acidity, β€œgrazers” like sea urchins, help keep algae in check.
Credit: Kristy Kroeker/UC Davis photo

Ocean acidification may create an impact similar to extinction on marine ecosystems, according to a study released today by the University of California, Davis.

Related Articles


The study, published online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that ocean acidification can degrade not only individual species, as past studies have shown, but entire ecosystems. This results in a homogenized marine community, dominated by fewer plants and animals.

"The background, low-grade stress caused by ocean acidification can cause a whole shift in the ecosystem so that everything is dominated by the same plants, which tend to be turf algae," said lead author Kristy Kroeker, a postdoctoral researcher at the Bodega Marine Laboratory at UC Davis.

"In most ecosystems, there are lots of different colorful patches of plants and animals -- of algae, of sponges, of anemones," Kroeker said. "With ocean acidification, you lose that patchiness. We call it a loss of functional diversity; everything looks the same."

In the waters surrounding Castello Aragonese, a 14th century castle off the coast of Italy, volcanic vents naturally release bubbles of carbon dioxide gas, creating different levels of acidity among the marine-animal and plant communities there. These gradients of acidity gave the scientists a glimpse of what a future marked by increasingly acidic ocean waters could look like, and how the creatures and plants living in those environments may react to it.

The researchers selected three reef zones -- of low, high and extremely high acidity, representing world ocean conditions for the present day, 2100 and 2500, respectively. Then they removed animals and vegetation from the rocks there. Every few months for three years, Kroeker dived to the study plots to photograph them and watch how the plots in each zone recovered.

By examining how recovery differed among zones, the study found that acidic water reduced the number and variety of species. In the non-acidic plots, many different plants and animals, including turf algae, would colonize and grow. Calcareous species, such as sea urchins and snails, would then eat them, allowing for variety through time.

However, in both the high and extremely high acidic plots, fleshy turf algae increased steadily and overtook the zones, as the urchins and other grazers were either not present or did not graze on the algae while in these zones.

Calcareous grazers play key roles in maintaining the balance within marine ecosystems. They are also considered among the most vulnerable species to ocean acidification.

"Our research is showing that if the role of these grazers changes with ocean acidification, you might expect to see cascading effects of the whole ecosystem," Kroeker said. "If the pattern holds for other calcareous grazers, this has implications for other ecosystems, as well."

Co-authors in the study include Maria Cristina Gambi of the Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn in Naples, Italy, and Fiorenza Micheli of Stanford University.

The research was supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, a Stanford University Chambers Fellowship, a Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation and the Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Kristy J. Kroeker, Maria Cristin Gambi, and Fiorenza Micheli. Community dynamics and ecosystem simplification in a high-CO2 ocean. PNAS, 2013 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1216464110

Cite This Page:

University of California - Davis. "Glimpse into the future of acidic oceans shows ecosystems transformed." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 July 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130708171040.htm>.
University of California - Davis. (2013, July 8). Glimpse into the future of acidic oceans shows ecosystems transformed. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130708171040.htm
University of California - Davis. "Glimpse into the future of acidic oceans shows ecosystems transformed." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130708171040.htm (accessed December 19, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, December 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Lava on Track to Hit Hawaii Market

Raw: Lava on Track to Hit Hawaii Market

AP (Dec. 19, 2014) — Lava from an active volcano on Hawaii's Big Island slowed slightly but stayed on track to hit a shopping center in the small town of Pahoa. (Dec. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Newsy (Dec. 19, 2014) — A new study suggests a certain type of bird was able to sense a tornado outbreak that moved through the U.S. a day before it hit. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) — The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Arctic Warming Twice As Fast As Rest Of Planet

Arctic Warming Twice As Fast As Rest Of Planet

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) — The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, thanks in part to something called feedback. 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