Shells thinning due to ocean acidification

By soaking up excess CO2 from the atmosphere oceans are undergoing a rise in acidity causing ramifications across their ecosystems, most frequently highlighted in the plight of coral reefs around the world. However, a new study in Nature Geoscience shows that the acidification is affecting another type of marine life. Foraminifera, a tiny amoeba-like entity numbering in the billions, have experienced a 30 to 35 percent drop in their shell-weight due to the high acidity of the oceans.

Although incredibly small, the tiny foraminifera are vital. They play an important role in trapping CO2 on the ocean’s surface and carrying it down to the ocean floor after dying, where the CO2 is stored. Scientists are concerned how the change in their effectiveness to create heavy shells may transform foraminifera’s role in carbon sequestration.

“The big challenge will be how do we scale up this kind of change to what I means for the ecosystem,” author William Howard told Reuters. “And to be honest. We don’t know yet.”

Researchers Andrew Moy and Howard from the University of Tasmania collected the foraminifera species Globigerina bulloides in the Southern Ocean using sediment traps. They compared the mass of current shells to others collected on the sea floor, going back as far as 50,000 years.

Jeremy Hance,, 13 March 2009. Article.

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