Calcifiers cover up changes in ocean pH

Corals and molluscs are able to protect themselves from the affects of acidic oceans, but only to a point, say marine scientists who have measured individual species resilience to pH change.

Australian researcher Dr Ross Jeffree, one of the study’s principal investigators, says as pH levels fall protective structures such as shells that are based on calcium carbonate dissolve.

But their loss is offset by calcification or rebuilding of the lost skeleton or shells.

Jeffree, who until recently headed a marine environment laboratory at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Monaco, explains that they wanted to distinguish the rate of loss and the rate of accrual from the net rate of calcification.

“We wanted to understand in greater detail the ability to possibly enhance calcification rates when exposed to acidified waters and also to see whether the exposed parts of the shell will still dissolve.”

The study, which is published in Nature Climate Change, examined three types of marine calcifiers: mussels, limpets and two species of corals. One of the coral species is completely covered by tissue while the other has regions of its skeleton exposed.

Branwen Morgan, ABC Science, 22 August 2011. Full article.

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