Ocean warming and acidification impact the marine food web, study finds

Ocean warming and acidification impact marine food web
(A) A healthy coccolithophore. (B) A collapsed coccolithophore. Ocean acidification greatly increases the chance of the coccolithophore sphere to collapse. Credit: Roberta Johnson ICTA-UAB

Ocean warming and ocean acidification driven by climate change decrease the nutritional quality of some marine organisms, causing disruptions to the ocean food web.

This is the main conclusion of a study conducted by the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) in collaboration with the Roscoff Marine Station (France) that analyzes the increase in temperature and ocean acidification on the nutritional content of coccolithophores, a unique and abundant type of phytoplankton able to calcify and cover the cell with elaborate calcite elements.

Ocean warming and acidification are the result of the rapid accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. While ocean warming is predicted to cause changes in the distribution of species, which will have impacts on marine ecosystems, calcifying marine organisms are predicted to respond negatively to ocean acidification as it makes it more difficult for them to build their skeleton or shells. Although these impacts are expected to affect the marine food web, there is a lack of knowledge as to what these specific effects will be.

Coccolithophores are at the base of the marine food web and are a food source for many zooplankton species by providing energy to these organisms in the form of fats (lipids) and other nutrients. Like other marine organisms, acidification is expected to negatively affect their shells.

Autonomous University of Barcelona (via Phys.org), 25 November 2022. Press release.

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