Archive for January, 2010

“Silent timebomb” to be studied at new Newburgh unit

Oceanlab 2 to tackle acidification

A new £5million research facility has been built in the north-east to help scientists tackle the “silent environmental timebomb” facing the world’s oceans.

Talk of climate change has centred on rising sea levels and freak weather events – while problems caused by the acidulation of the seas have slipped under the radar largely.

However, professor Monty Priede, of the University of Aberdeen, is heading a top team of marine experts looking to save the Earth’s underwater environment from the excesses of mankind.
Continue reading ‘“Silent timebomb” to be studied at new Newburgh unit’

Ocean basin ocean acidification

A new study shows that rising acidification in the world’s oceans is widespread.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is more than a global warmer; it’s also an ocean acidifier. The ocean is a huge reservoir of dissolved CO2 — with nearly 40,000 billion tons of carbon dissolved as CO2 in its vast waters, compared to 750 billion tons in the atmosphere.

We’re fortunate that the ocean is capable of absorbing even more (see my earlier posts here and here). Within about a year of being emitted, some 25 percent of the CO2 put into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels and deforestation is transferred into the ocean. Eventually, within centuries, a large fraction of the remaining emitted CO2 will find its way into the ocean depths.
Oceans’ Ability to Absorb CO2 Provides a Buffer From Even Warmer Climes

Why are we fortunate? If it weren’t for the ocean uptake of CO2, the climate impact of CO2 emissions would be a lot more intense and longer lived. But as with many things in this world, there’s a catch to the ocean buffer. Basic solution chemistry tells us that when CO2 is dissolved in water, it turns into an acid — namely, carbonic acid. And so it’s expected that CO2 dissolved in seawater would render the water more acidic.

Theory tells us that the change in the ocean’s acidity from anthropogenic CO2 will be small — for those of you familiar with the pH scale of acidity, we’re talking so far about a decrease in pH of 0.1 unit since the Industrial Revolution (a change of about -0.3 pH is expected by mid-century).
Continue reading ‘Ocean basin ocean acidification’

Carbon emissions increasing acidity of ocean, threatening marine life

The following article was released by SeaWeb in its latest update (January 26, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 2). There is also an accompanying video which can be accessed at the link provided below to the SeaWeb website.

Industrial nations that attended the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen this past December have until the end of this month to submit their plans for reducing carbon emissions to the secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)-although the UNFCCC head, Yvo de Boer, stated in a webcast on January 20 that the targets are not legally binding and the deadline is flexible.

The decisions these nations make now could have lasting impacts on marine life, as increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the ocean are making seawater increasingly acidic and, potentially, impeding the survival of many marine organisms.

The ocean absorbs approximately one-third of the carbon dioxide that is emitted by the burning of fossil fuels, which mitigates the impacts of climate change but results in the ocean becoming increasingly acidic. Already, as a recent report from Oceana points out, the ocean is one-third more acidic than it was prior to the Industrial Revolution.
Continue reading ‘Carbon emissions increasing acidity of ocean, threatening marine life’

Ocean acidification program solicitation NSF 10-530

Synopsis of Program:

Since the publication of The Royal Society’s report Ocean Acidification Due to Increasing Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide (June 2005,, there has been growing concern for the potential adverse impacts of a slowly acidifying sea upon marine ecosystems. In recognition of the need for basic research concerning the nature, extent and impact of ocean acidification on oceanic environments in the past, present and future, this announcement has the following broad goals:

  • To understand the chemistry and physical chemistry of ocean acidification and, in particular, its interplay with fundamental biochemical and physiological processes of organisms;
  • To understand how ocean acidification interacts with processes at the organismal level, and how such interactions impact the structure and function of ecosystems, e.g. through life histories, food webs, biogeochemical cycling, and other interactions;
  • To understand how the earth system history informs our understanding of the effects of ocean acidification on the present day and future ocean.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification program solicitation NSF 10-530’

Effects of ocean acidification and high temperatures on the bryozoan Myriapora truncata at natural CO2 vents

There are serious concerns that ocean acidification will combine with the effects of global warming to cause major shifts in marine ecosystems, but there is a lack of field data on the combined ecological effects of these changes due to the difficulty of creating large-scale, long-term exposures to elevated CO2 and temperature. Here we report the first coastal transplant experiment designed to investigate the effects of naturally acidified seawater on the rates of net calcification and dissolution of the branched calcitic bryozoan Myriapora truncata (Pallas, 1766). Colonies were transplanted to normal (pH 8.1), high (mean pH 7.66, minimum value 7.33) and extremely high CO2 conditions (mean pH 7.43, minimum value 6.83) at gas vents off Ischia Island (Tyrrhenian Sea, Italy). The net calcification rates of live colonies and the dissolution rates of dead colonies were estimated by weighing after 45 days (May–June 2008) and after 128 days (July–October) to examine the hypothesis that high CO2 levels affect bryozoan growth and survival differently during moderate and warm water conditions. In the first observation period, seawater temperatures ranged from 19 to 24 °C; dead M. truncata colonies dissolved at high CO2 levels (pH 7.66), whereas live specimens maintained the same net calcification rate as those growing at normal pH. In extremely high CO2 conditions (mean pH 7.43), the live bryozoans calcified significantly less than those at normal pH. Therefore, established colonies of M. truncata seem well able to withstand the levels of ocean acidification predicted in the next 200 years, possibly because the soft tissues protect the skeleton from an external decrease in pH. However, during the second period of observation a prolonged period of high seawater temperatures (25–28 °C) halted calcification both in controls and at high CO2, and all transplants died when high temperatures were combined with extremely high CO2 levels. Clearly, attempts to predict the future response of organisms to ocean acidification need to consider the effects of concurrent changes such as the Mediterranean trend for increased summer temperatures in surface waters. Although M. truncata was resilient to short-term exposure to high levels of ocean acidification at normal temperatures, our field transplants showed that its ability to calcify at higher temperatures was compromised, adding it to the growing list of species now potentially threatened by global warming.
Continue reading ‘Effects of ocean acidification and high temperatures on the bryozoan Myriapora truncata at natural CO2 vents’

Ocean acidification at the workshop on ocean biology observatories

SCOR and the Census of Marine Life held a workshop on ocean biology observatories in Mestre, Italy, 16-18 September 2009. Its goal was to bring together biologists, observing community, and technological community to develop ocean biology observatories that could address the grand challenges of observing ocean life and its response to global change.
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Experimental evidence for the global acidification of surface ocean at the Cretaceous–Palaeogene boundary: the biogenic calcite-poor spherule layers

The massive amount of impact-generated atmospheric CO2 at the Cretaceous-Palaeogene boundary (KPB) would have accumulated globally in the surface ocean, leading to acidification and CaCO3 undersaturation. These chemical changes would have caused a crisis of biocalcification of calcareous plankton and enhanced dissolution of their shells; these factors together may have played a crucial role in forming the biogenic calcite-poor KPB spherule layers observed at numerous oceanic sites and marine (now on land) sites in Europe and Africa. Experimental data and observations indicate that the deposition spherule layer probably lasted only a few decades at most.
Continue reading ‘Experimental evidence for the global acidification of surface ocean at the Cretaceous–Palaeogene boundary: the biogenic calcite-poor spherule layers’

Impact of ocean acidification on carbonate structures in marine animals

This project addresses a major NERC/LWEC research goal: to study the responses of marine organisms to ocean acidification and other climate change related stressors and explore their resistance or susceptibility to acidification. It will test the hypothesis that ocean acidification (OA) will influence carbonate production pathways differently according to the mechanisms by which carbonate structures are produced. Such a unifying principle for predicting the impact of OA on carbonate formation across all marine calcifying organisms would have enormous potential impact on climate change science.

The student will take a phylogenetic approach, comparing two molluscs (mussels, limpets) and two fish (cod, sole). Experiments will focus on early life stages, since they are considered to be the most susceptible to the external changes due to a high surface area / volume ratio and poor ability to compensate for change in internal acidity. For fish and invertebrates, early formation of carbonate structures (shell, otoliths, and statoliths) will be studied using a combination of molecular, physiological and bio-imaging tools to examine key steps in carbonate formation and structural/developmental patterns. For invertebrates, studies will focus on the detailed mechanisms and processes controlling early exoskeleton formation. For fish, gut carbonate production will also be measured and compared between larval and juvenile stages.
Continue reading ‘Impact of ocean acidification on carbonate structures in marine animals’

OCB newsletter

The Winter 2010 issue of the Ocean Carbon and Biogeochemistry (OCB) Newsletter comprises several items of interest for ocean acidification, including a report on the OCB- and EPOCA-sponsored short course on ocean acidification (OA) research that took place at Woods Hole in November 2009.
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Suit will be filed to protect 83 corals threatened by global warming, ocean acidification

The Center for Biological Diversity has formally notified the National Marine Fisheries Service of its intent to sue the agency for its failure to respond to a petition seeking to protect 83 imperiled coral species under the Endangered Species Act. These corals, all of which occur in U.S. waters ranging from Florida and Hawaii to U.S. territories in the Caribbean and Pacific, face a growing threat of extinction due to rising ocean temperatures caused by global warming, and the related threat of ocean acidification. The Endangered Species Act requires that the National Marine Fisheries Service respond to the petition within 90 days, and this initial finding is delinquent.

“Within a few decades, global warming and ocean acidification threaten to completely destroy magnificent coral reefs that took millions of years to build,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Timing is of the essence to reverse the tragic decline of these vitally important reefs, and we can’t afford any delays in protecting corals under the Endangered Species Act.”
Continue reading ‘Suit will be filed to protect 83 corals threatened by global warming, ocean acidification’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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