Energetic costs of calcification under ocean acidification

Anthropogenic ocean acidification threatens to negatively impact marine organisms that precipitate calcium carbonate skeletons. Past geological events, such as the Permian-Triassic Mass Extinction, together with modern experiments generally support these concerns. However, the physiological costs of producing a calcium carbonate skeleton under different acidification scenarios remain poorly understood. Here, we present an idealized mathematical model to quantify whole-skeleton costs, concluding that they rise only modestly (up to ∼10%) under acidification expected for 2100. The modest magnitude of this effect reflects in part the low energetic cost of inorganic, calcium carbonate relative to the proteinaceous organic matrix component of skeletons. Our analysis does, however, point to an important kinetic constraint that depends on seawater carbonate chemistry, and we hypothesize that the impact of acidification is more likely to cause extinctions within groups where the timescale of larval development is tightly constrained. The cheapness of carbonate skeletons compared to organic materials also helps explain the widespread evolutionary convergence upon calcification within the metazoa.

Spalding C., Finnegan S. & Fischer W., in press. Energetic costs of calcification under ocean acidification. Global Biogeochemical Cycles. Article (subscription required).

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