A chalkier ocean? Multi-decadal increases in North Atlantic coccolithophore populations

Increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations are resulting in both warmer sea surface temperatures due to the greenhouse effect and increasingly carbon-rich surface waters. The ocean has absorbed roughly one third of anthropogenic carbon emissions (1), causing a shift in carbon chemistry equilibrium to more acidic conditions with lower calcium carbonate saturation states (ocean
acidification). Organisms that produce calcium carbonate structures are thought to be particularly susceptible to these changes (2-4).

Coccolithophores are the most abundant type of calcifying unicellular micro-algae in the ocean, producing microscopic calcium carbonate plates called coccoliths (5). Low-pH conditions have been shown to disrupt the formation of coccoliths (calcification; e.g., (6)). Therefore, it is generally expected that a higher-CO2 ocean will cause a reduction in calcification rates or a decrease in the abundance of these calcifiers. Such changes could have far-reaching consequences for marine ecosystems, as well as global carbon cycling and carbon export to the deep sea. (…)

Krumhardt K. & Rivero-Calle S., 2016. A chalkier ocean? Multi-decadal increases in North Atlantic coccolithophore populations. OCB News Fall 2016 9(3):1-5. Article.

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