Exposure to carbon dioxide-rich seawater is stressful for some deep-sea species: an in situ, behavioral study

Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, the concentration of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased from 275 to 370 ppm; the increase is thought to have caused much of the rise in global temperature that has occurred during the same period. A means of mitigating its effects is to collect industrial carbon dioxide and sequester it in the deep ocean. Knowledge of effects of such sequestration on deep-sea organisms is crucial to evaluation of the wisdom of deep-ocean sequestration. We therefore tested deep-sea animals for indications that exposure to carbon dioxide-rich seawater is stressful. Our study site was at 3087 m depth off the coast of central California (36°41.91’N, 123°0.14’W). We deployed liquid carbon dioxide in open-topped containers on the sea floor. The carbon dioxide reacted with the carbonate system in the overlying seawater, and carbon dioxide-rich seawater flowed out onto the sediment. We placed inverted-funnel traps near the containers and ~75 m away from them. Measurements of pH confirmed that the area near the containers was exposed to carbon dioxide-rich seawater. As a test taxon, we chose harpacticoid copepods. The traps near the source of the carbon dioxide-rich seawater caught significantly more harpacticoids than those far from it. The harpacticoids apparently attempted to escape from the advancing front of carbon dioxide-rich seawater and therefore presumably found exposure to it to be stressful.
D. Thistle, L. Sedlace, K. R. Carman, J. W. Fleeger, P. G. Brewer, J. P. Barry, 2007. Exposure to carbon dioxide-rich seawater is stressful for some deep-sea species: an in situ, behavioral study. Marine Ecology Progress Series 340:9-16. Article.

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