BOCA RATON, FL (September 24, 2012) – Marguerite Koch, Ph.D., biological sciences professor in Florida Atlantic University’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science and assistant director of FAU’s climate change program, has published a comprehensive review on climate change and ocean acidification effects on marine plants in the highly ranked international journal Global Change Biology. Koch is attending a conference on Ocean Acidification “Third International Symposium on the Ocean in a High CO2 World” in Monterey, Calif. during the week of Monday, September 24. She will be presenting her research being conducted at FAU’s Gumbo Limbo Marine Laboratory.
“Ocean acidification is occurring because atmospheric CO2 concentrations are rising rapidly and the oceans are acting a big sponge, capturing about 30 percent of the CO2 from man-made sources every year,” said Koch. “When CO2 gets dissolved in the ocean seawater it releases H+ which lowers the pH of the water and causing ocean acidification. Oceans are also storing a large component of the earth’s heat from greenhouse gases. Thus, climate change has two CO2 problems-heating and acidifying the oceans which marine plants, just like land plants, will respond to.”
Marine plants in the oceans fix inorganic carbon into organic food resources for fish and other marine animals. They are the natural agricultural sector for the oceans. These plants can also create entire ecosystems with their structure, such as seagrasses forming meadows and macroalgae making up kelp forests and the Sargasso Sea seaweed. Fishermen look to the Sargasso seaweed “weedline” off the coast as a good place to fish-these algae are creating structure for an entire fishery, and sea turtles and other marine animals live in the seaweed too. These foundation marine plant communities are appropriately called ecosystem engineers, and can be a problem when they blanket coral reefs and negatively affect reef health.
Koch examines important aspects of how climate change and ocean acidification will affect marine plants and their ecosystems in her research, including how elevated dissolved inorganic carbon might increase ocean productivity, ideal for fleshy algae and sea grasses. Many marine plants, particularly in the tropics, with calcified bodies that create the sediment on reefs and sites for corals to settle, may be negatively affected by ocean acidification. Their bodies are like chalk that with acid can dissolve or they have trouble forming the calcium carbonate crystals needed for growth. Koch’s lab is focused on tropical species, including the examination of their thermal thresholds. For more information on her research and information on ocean acidification, see the following links:
Link to conference web site: www.confmanager.com/main.cfmcid=2259&tid=32
Link to Dr. Koch’s web site: www.science.fau.edu/biology/koch/
Link to NOAA web site on OA: www.pmel.noaa.gov/co2/story/Ocean+Acidification
About Florida Atlantic University:
Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University, with an annual economic impact of $6.3 billion, serves more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students at sites throughout its six-county service region in southeast Florida. FAU’s world-class teaching and research faculty serves students through 10 colleges: the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, the College of Business, the College for Design and Social Inquiry, the College of Education, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the Graduate College, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. FAU is ranked as a High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University is placing special focus on the rapid development of three signature themes – marine and coastal issues, biotechnology and contemporary societal challenges – which provide opportunities for faculty and students to build upon FAU’s existing strengths in research and scholarship. For more information, visit www.fau.edu.
Florida Atlantic University, 24 September 2012. Press release.