Scientist’s alert over carbon levels

Marine biodiversity is at risk due to the corrosive effects of carbon dioxide, a leading Westcountry scientist has warned.

Dr Jason Hall-Spencer, of Plymouth University, said the combination of ocean acidification and rising water temperatures were killing off corals, shellfish and other valuable marine life, posing a risk to industries such as fishing and tourism.

He was addressing the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Vancouver, Canada, where he presented his findings from studying biodiversity at naturally occurring underwater carbon dioxide vents.

He said: “Wherever we look along gradients of increasing carbon dioxide, the effects are strikingly similar – large falls in biodiversity occur both in the tropics and in colder waters.

“Warming makes many of the organisms even more vulnerable to the corrosive effects of carbon dioxide – so shellfish and tourism industries are right to be concerned about ocean acidification.”

The use of these carbon vents as “natural laboratories” was initiated by Dr Hall-Spencer who began work at Ischia Island corr in Italy, expanding to sites around volcanoes in Sicily, Greece, Mexico and Papua New Guinea, after he became frustrated by the slow progress being made towards predicting what increasing carbon dioxide levels might do to coastal ecosystems.

He has found that some organisms with an outer layer of protective tissue are able to adapt to the effects of long-term acidification.

However organisms which lack protection suffer corrosion to their exposed shells and skeletons.

Dr Hall-Spencer added: “Initial observations confirm that although increased carbon dioxide benefits some organisms, including invasive species of algae and stinging jellyfish, it reduces biodiversity across the board.”

 

this is Plymouth, 20 February 2012. Article.


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