Ocean acidification and its impact on the early life-history stages of marine animals

The world’s oceans are slowly becoming more acidic and profound changes in marine ecosystems are certain. Expected changes for the coming century will have significant affects on marine animals, especially those lacking adequate physiological buffering capacity and/or with calcareous skeletons such as echinoderms. In addition, alarmingly little is known about the long term impact of predicted pH changes on marine invertebrate larval development. Data currently available shows that the impact of ocean acidification (OA) on marine animals is not easy to predict (e.g. calcareous v.s. non-calcareous species, negative v.s. positive effects), furthermore it is species-specific even within closely related taxa and operates in synergy with other environmental parameters (e.g. temperature, food availability). An holistic approach on several generations including all phases of individual life cycles is required and essential. Further studies should focus on an established and robust frame of reference for life-history analyses, including temporal as well as developmental stages. Moreover, it is important to work in realistic abiotic (e.g. pH, temperature) and biotic (e.g. nutrient/food concentration) conditions, for example within a range of seawater pH predicted to occur by the year 2100 (?pH ≈- 0.2 to – 0.4 units) regulated by manipulation of environmental CO2 levels. Our view is that we need studies that embrace a wide range of carefully selected taxa and that also include careful consideration of life-history strategies exhibited by marine organisms. These considerations are illustrated by examples from our own research.

Dupont S. & Thorndyke M. C., 2008. Ocean acidification and its impact on the early life-history stages of marine animals. In: Briand F. (Ed.), Impacts of acidification on biological, chemical and physical systems in the Mediterranean and Black Seas, pp. 89-97. Monaco: CIESM. Article.

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