Slow-flow habitats as refugia for coastal calcifiers from ocean acidification

The pH of the oceans’ surface water is dropping, termed ocean acidification (OA), and the 0.4 unit reduction in pH by 2100 is projected to negatively impact benthic coastal organisms that produce calcium carbonate ‘skeletons’. Research has focussed on identifying species that are susceptible to OA, but there is an urgent need to discover refuge habitats that will afford protection to vulnerable species. The susceptibility of calcium carbonate skeletons to dissolution by OA depends on the pH at the surface, and this is controlled by the interaction between seawater water velocity and organismal metabolism. This Perspective considers how seawater velocity modifies the responses of calcifying organisms (seaweed, shellfish, tropical corals) to OA through its action on controlling diffusion boundary layer thickness and thereby the pH and calcium carbonate saturation state (Ω) at the organisms’ surface. Evidence is presented to support the idea that slow-flow habitats, such as wave-sheltered bays or the within canopies of seaweed/seagrass beds, might provide inexpensive refugia from OA for vulnerable coastal calcifiers.

Hurd C. L., in press. Slow-flow habitats as refugia for coastal calcifiers from ocean acidification. Journal of Phycology. Article (subscription required).

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