CO2-induced ocean acidification impairs calcification in the tropical urchin Echinometra viridis

Atmospheric carbon dioxide (pCO2) has risen from approximately 280 to 400 ppm since the Industrial Revolution, due mainly to the combustion of fossil fuels, deforestation, and cement production. It is predicted to reach as high as 900 ppm by the end of this century. Ocean acidification resulting from the release of anthropogenic CO2 has been shown to impair the ability of some marine calcifiers to build their shells and skeletons. Here, we present the results of ocean acidification experiments designed to assess the effects of an increase in atmospheric pCO2 from ca. 448 to 827 ppm on calcification rates of the tropical urchin Echinometra viridis. Experiments were conducted under the urchin’s winter (20 °C) and summer (30 °C) water temperatures in order to identify seasonal differences in the urchin’s response to ocean acidification. The experiments reveal that calcification rates decreased for urchins reared under elevated pCO2, with the decline being more pronounced under wintertime temperatures than under summertime temperatures. These results indicate that the urchin E. viridis will be negatively impacted by CO2-induced ocean acidification that is predicted to occur by the end of this century. These results also suggest that impact of CO2-induced ocean acidification on urchin calcification will be more severe in the winter and in cooler waters.

Courtney T., Westfield I. & Ries J.B., 2013. CO2-induced ocean acidification impairs calcification in the tropical urchin Echinometra viridis. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 440: 169–175. Article (subscription required).

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