Is ocean acidification really a threat to marine calcifiers? A systematic review and meta-analysis of 980+ studies spanning two decades

Ocean acidification is considered detrimental to marine calcifiers, but mounting contradictory evidence suggests a need to revisit this concept. This systematic review and meta-analysis aim to critically re-evaluate the prevailing paradigm of negative effects of ocean acidification on calcifiers. Based on 5153 observations from 985 studies, many calcifiers (e.g., echinoderms, crustaceans, and cephalopods) are found to be tolerant to near-future ocean acidification (pH ≈ 7.8 by the year 2100), but coccolithophores, calcifying algae, and corals appear to be sensitive. Calcifiers are generally more sensitive at the larval stage than adult stage. Over 70% of the observations in growth and calcification are non-negative, implying the acclimation capacity of many calcifiers to ocean acidification. This capacity can be mediated by phenotypic plasticity (e.g., physiological, mineralogical, structural, and molecular adjustments), transgenerational plasticity, increased food availability, or species interactions. The results suggest that the impacts of ocean acidification on calcifiers are less deleterious than initially thought as their adaptability has been underestimated. Therefore, in the forthcoming era of ocean acidification research, it is advocated that studying how marine organisms persist is as important as studying how they perish, and that future hypotheses and experimental designs are not constrained within the paradigm of negative effects.

Leung J. Y. S., Zhang S. & Connell S. D., 2022. Is ocean acidification really a threat to marine calcifiers? A systematic review and meta-analysis of 980+ studies spanning two decades. Small: 2107407. doi: 10.1002/smll.202107407. Article.


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