How will ocean acidification affect Baltic Sea ecosystems? An assessment of plausible impacts on key functional groups

Increasing partial pressure of atmospheric CO2 is causing ocean pH to fall—a process known as ‘ocean acidification’. Scenario modeling suggests that ocean acidification in the Baltic Sea may cause a ≤3 times increase in acidity (reduction of 0.2–0.4 pH units) by the year 2100. The responses of most Baltic Sea organisms to ocean acidification are poorly understood. Available data suggest that most species and ecologically important groups in the Baltic Sea food web (phytoplankton, zooplankton, macrozoobenthos, cod and sprat) will be robust to the expected changes in pH. These conclusions come from (mostly) single-species and single-factor studies. Determining the emergent effects of ocean acidification on the ecosystem from such studies is problematic, yet very few studies have used multiple stressors and/or multiple trophic levels. There is an urgent need for more data from Baltic Sea populations, particularly from environmentally diverse regions and from controlled mesocosm experiments. In the absence of such information it is difficult to envision the likely effects of future ocean acidification on Baltic Sea species and ecosystems.

Havenhand J. N., 2012. How will ocean acidification affect Baltic Sea ecosystems? An assessment of plausible impacts on key functional groups. AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment 41(6): 637-644. Article.


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