Archive for November, 2008

PhD studentship on the effects of ocean acidification on reproductive ecology of marine invertebrates (University of Gothenburg)

Dept. of Marine Ecology, University of Gothenburg
the award will be in the area of natural sciences with specialisation in ecology

The Department of Marine Ecology has vibrant research and teaching programmes spread across three campuses: in the city of Gothenburg and at two research stations, one in Tjärnö close to the town of Strömstad, and the other in Kristineberg, Fiskebäckskil. The Department has broad research interests in a variety of specialisations of marine ecology including ocean acidification and the reproductive ecology of marine invertebrates. This 4-year (max) PhD studentship is a full-time salaried position within the Faculty. Current starting salary is 19,850 SEK per month. The position can be combined with teaching duties (up to 20% FTE per year), in which case the duration of appointment will be prolonged pro rata.
Continue reading ‘PhD studentship on the effects of ocean acidification on reproductive ecology of marine invertebrates (University of Gothenburg)’

There Will Be Acid

Over the past few days, scientists have released a series of studies suggesting that the world’s oceans are acidifying much faster than anyone thought possible. As an increasing amount of carbon-dioxide gets emitted into the atmosphere, the oceans have, in turn, been absorbing more of it, which causes the pH of the water to fall. Lower pH makes it hard for marine organisms to build shells out of calcium carbonate, a potentially deadly problem for shellfish, coral, and some kinds of plankton. (Last week, the Center for Biological Diversity sued the EPA over this very issue, using the Clean Water Act as a pretext.)

So how fast are we talking about? The ocean off the coast of Washington State is acidifying ten to 20 times faster than existing climate models had projected, according to a new paper published by researchers at the University of Chicago. The researchers found that the decreasing pH of ocean water at their monitoring site corresponded with a decline in mussel populations, presumably because the mussels had difficulty building shells.
Continue reading ‘There Will Be Acid’

Workshop on Best Practices in Ocean Acidification Research and Data Reporting

Last week, approximately 40 scientists from 10 countries met at IFM-GEOMAR in Kiel, Germany to establish an international agreement on best practices for ocean acidification research. The workshop was sponsored by the European Project on Ocean Acidification (EPOCA), the International Ocean Carbon Coordination Project (IOCCP), the US Ocean Carbon and Biogeochemistry Program (OCB), and the Kiel “Future Ocean” Excellence Cluster. It covered seawater carbonate chemistry, experimental design of perturbation experiments, measurements of CO2-sensitive processes and data reporting and usage.

The participants agreed on the recommendations that would appear in a guide as well as on authors and timelines for drafting each section. While this first workshop was kept necessarily small, the development of the best practices guide is meant to be an open community-wide activity. We invite interested experts to visit the EPOCA web site ( under “Best practices guide”) to review the presentations from the meeting, the timeline for drafting and reviewing the guide, and contacts. The outline of the guide will be uploaded shortly.

Study Warns Ocean Acidification Increases At Alarming Levels

The accelerated increase in atmospheric CO2 resulted from fossil fuel burning, deforestation, and other human activities, trigger serious consequences on marine ecosystems, scientists from the University of Chicago warned in a recent report published in PNAS.

As the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere increases, the ocean pH changes, which impacts the marine organisms living here. The pH is important for mediating physiological reactions, the researchers explained, and is critical for a lot of processes in the ocean.

A declining pH could interfere with reef building, carbon sequestration via phytoplankton sedimentation, and consumer-resource interactions. Furthermore, the organisms that are most likely to suffer from these changes are the calcifying organisms such as corals, mollusks, coralline algae, and phytoplankton.
Continue reading ‘Study Warns Ocean Acidification Increases At Alarming Levels’

Interannual variability of pteropod shell weights in the high-CO2 Southern Ocean

Anthropogenic inputs of CO2 are altering ocean chemistry and may alter the role of marine calcifiers in ocean ecosystems. CO2 emissions over the coming centuries may produce changes in ocean pH not seen for millions of years. Laboratory evidence has shown decreased calcification in some species of coccolithophores, foraminifera, corals and pteropods in response to CO2 enrichment. However, in situ observations of calcification in marine organisms are limited, especially for the aragonitic pteropods. This group of pelagic molluscs are likely to be more sensitive to changes in carbonate chemistry than calcite producers such as foraminifera and coccolithophores. Here we present observations of pteropod shell-weight and flux from 1997–2006 in sediment traps deployed at 47° S, 142° E at 2000 meters below sea surface in the Southern Ocean. A decadal trend of –1.17±0.47 μg yr−1 (P=0.02) in mean shell weight in the pteropod Limacina helicina antarctica forma antarctica suggests a small but detectable reduction in calcification. Gaps in the data make it difficult to state with certainty the significance of the trend. However, this data set represents the first attempt to estimate interannual variations in pteropod calcification and establish a benchmark against which future impacts of ocean acidification may be detected. Contributions of Limacina helicina antarctica morphotypes to the total pteropod flux were also reduced over the decade. We suggest these small though discernible trends are due to changing carbonate chemistry in the Subantarctic, as other oceanographic variables show no clear decadal trends. With CO2 continuing to enter the ocean such impacts on pteropods and other marine calcifiers could result in changes to the distribution of species and the structure of Southern Ocean ecosystems.
Continue reading ‘Interannual variability of pteropod shell weights in the high-CO2 Southern Ocean’

Oceans ‘turning acidic quickly’

In a new research, scientists at the University of Chicago, US, have documented that oceans are growing acidic faster than
previously thought.

In addition, they have found that the increasing acidity correlates with increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2).

“Of the variables the study examined that are linked to changes in ocean acidity, only atmospheric carbon dioxide exhibited a corresponding steady change,” said J. Timothy Wootton, the lead author of the study and Professor of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago.
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Group Plans Suit Against Bush Administration for Ignoring Global Warming Threat to Coral Habitat

Federal Protection of Coral Habitat in Florida and the Caribbean Falls Short

The Center for Biological Diversity on Wednesday will give the Bush administration official notice of its intent file a lawsuit for illegally excluding global warming and ocean acidification threats from a new rule protecting habitat for elkhorn and staghorn corals. The federal government announced today that it will designate almost 3,000 square miles of reef area off the coasts of Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands as critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act for the threatened corals. The new rule, to be published in Wednesday’s Federal Register, was required by a court-approved settlement of a 2007 lawsuit brought by the Center.

Although the polar bear has gained more notoriety, elkhorn coral and staghorn coral — which were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2006 — have the dubious honor of being the first species protected under the Endangered Species Act due to threats to their survival primarily caused by global warming. The law requires that when a species is listed under the Act, the federal government must protect habitat that is essential to its survival and recovery. In the new critical-habitat rule, the federal government designated important areas to be protected for the corals, but created a giant loophole that disregards the primary threats to coral habitat: elevated seawater temperatures and ocean acidification.
Continue reading ‘Group Plans Suit Against Bush Administration for Ignoring Global Warming Threat to Coral Habitat’

File under: ‘it’s worse than we thought’

If I had a penny for every time I’ve read a paper that says climate change is worse than we thought, I’d have … well … over a pound by now. A colleague on Nature Reports Climate Change says she’d have “at least five pounds … maybe a hundred”.

Today’s example: the oceans are turning acidic faster than we thought.

“The increase in acidity we saw during our study was about the same magnitude as we expect over the course of the next century,” says Timothy Wootton, of the University of Chicago (National Geographic).
Continue reading ‘File under: ‘it’s worse than we thought’’

Ocean acidity threatens sea life

Increasing levels of acidity in the world’s oceans –- caused by excess carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels –- are threatening several species of sea creatures, according to a study in this week’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers, led by Timothy Wootton of the University of Chicago, compiled eight years of acidity, salinity, temperature, and other measurements from probes at Tatoosh Island, Wash., which is located just off the Olympic Peninsula.

Oceans absorb about a third of the CO2 released into the atmosphere, and when the CO2 dissolves in water, it forms carbonic acid, which alters the ocean’s chemical balance. Acidic ocean water can cause seashells to dissolve; researchers in this study discovered that the increasingly acidic water of Tatoosh Island caused mussels (above) and barnacle populations to decline. Scientists are also concerned that any sea creatures with shells, including oysters, crabs, and lobsters, could also be at risk as the oceans become more acidic.

The researchers found that the acidity increased more than 10 times faster than predicted by climate simulations. “Our worry is that this might be happening faster than people thought,” says Wootton. “We hope this study will prod people to do more research into this.”
Continue reading ‘Ocean acidity threatens sea life’

CLIMATE CHANGE: Oceans Passing Critical CO2 Threshold

An apparent rapid upswing in ocean acidity in recent years is wiping out coastal species like mussels, a new study has found.

“We’re seeing dramatic changes,” said Timothy Wootton of the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, lead author of the study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study shows increases in ocean acidity that are more than 10 times faster than any prediction.

“It appears that we’ve crossed a threshold where the ocean can no longer buffer the effects of CO2 in the atmosphere,” Wootton told IPS.
Continue reading ‘CLIMATE CHANGE: Oceans Passing Critical CO2 Threshold’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book