Consequences of a simulated rapid ocean acidification event for benthic ecosystem processes and functions

Whilst the biological consequences of long-term, gradual changes in acidity associated with the oceanic uptake of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) are increasingly studied, the potential effects of rapid acidification associated with a failure of sub-seabed carbon storage infrastructure have received less attention. This study investigates the effects of severe short-term (8 days) exposure to acidified seawater on infaunal mediation of ecosystem processes (bioirrigation and sediment particle redistribution) and functioning (nutrient concentrations). Following acidification, individuals of Amphiura filiformis exhibited emergent behaviour typical of a stress response, which resulted in altered bioturbation, but limited changes in nutrient cycling. Under acidified conditions, A. filiformis moved to shallower depths within the sediment and the variability in occupancy depth reduced considerably. This study indicated that rapid acidification events may not be lethal to benthic invertebrates, but may result in behavioural changes that could have longer-term implications for species survival, ecosystem structure and functioning.

Murray F., Widdicombe S., McNeill C. L. & Solan M., in press. Consequences of a simulated rapid ocean acidification event for benthic ecosystem processes and functions. Marine Pollution Bulletin. Article (subscription required).

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