Archive for the 'Media coverage' Category

Antarctic environmental change and biological responses

Antarctica and the surrounding Southern Ocean are facing complex environmental change. Their native biota has adapted to the region’s extreme conditions over many millions of years. This unique biota is now challenged by environmental change and the direct impacts of human activity. The terrestrial biota is characterized by considerable physiological and ecological flexibility and is expected to show increases in productivity, population sizes and ranges of individual species, and community complexity. However, the establishment of non-native organisms in both terrestrial and marine ecosystems may present an even greater threat than climate change itself. In the marine environment, much more limited response flexibility means that even small levels of warming are threatening. Changing sea ice has large impacts on ecosystem processes, while ocean acidification and coastal freshening are expected to have major impacts.

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Ocean acidification mooring deployments on Saturn’s moon, Europa, scheduled for 2023

Global ocean acidification monitoring efforts have greatly expanded over the last decade, with a myriad of new technologies produced to help scientists understand the effects of anthropogenic CO2 on ocean chemistry. This phenomenon has been documented in the world’s main ocean basins, with some time series sustained for several decades. Ocean chemists, astronomers, and engineers are now coming together to ask the next big question in ocean acidification research: can this process be measured in other ocean worlds, and if conditions are less acidic on other planets compared to Earth, might we be able to use other ocean planets as a proxy for palaeoceanographic studies?

The ET-OAMI (Extra Terrestrial Ocean Acidification Monitoring Initiative) has published its research plan to deploy twenty moorings around Saturn’s moon, Europa on 1 April 2023, each equipped with sensors for measuring temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, pCO2, and pH. As Europa’s ocean is covered in a thick blanket of ice, the astronauts will drill through this 15-25km sheet prior to deploying the moorings. Astronauts will also try to collect discrete seawater samples from Europa for measurements of dissolved inorganic carbon, total alkalinity, as well as for detecting any microbial DNA. Could ocean acidification monitoring lead to humanity’s first glimpse at alien life forms?

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Simple framework helps future ocean studies

Simple framework helps future ocean studies

The team anticipates that their framework will provide a strong base to help improve the robustness and reproducibility of the growing body of research in different marine environments. Credit: Nathan Geraldi

A range of information is collated through a simple framework that will help marine scientists to design more accurate experiments that will better help them understand the projected impact of global warming on marine life.

Understanding the consequences of rising carbon dioxide (CO2) levels and global warming for marine life requires complex experiments that can assess the responses of biota to different environmental scenarios. Experiments need to be able to precisely represent future CO2 levels and temperature if they are to accurately predict the potential impact on different species throughout the world’s oceans.

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Using transgenerational plasticity as an adaptation measure for ocean acidification impacts to abalone aquaculture

Following the dramatic decline of red abalone over the last 60 years, aquaculture has paved the way for restoration efforts and commercial opportunities. However, changes in certain oceanic conditions, such as ocean acidification (OA) resulting from increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, remain a challenge for aquaculture production. The increased acidity increases mortality rates and slows growth times for production abalone, which could have a significant impact on aquaculture businesses.

Given the large volumes of water needed, controlling the pH for aquaculture facilities remains technically and economically infeasible. Rather, aquaculture facilities are reliant on the local oceanic conditions from where their seawater is sourced.

Continue reading ‘Using transgenerational plasticity as an adaptation measure for ocean acidification impacts to abalone aquaculture’

Ocean acidification will eat away at the shells of abalone and other economically important shellfish species

As carbon dioxide emissions dissolve into the oceans, seawater carbonate (CO3) concentrations decrease. In the future, low CO3 concentrations will threaten the survival of ecologically and economically important shellfish, as they struggle to find enough carbonate to build their calcium carbonate (CaCO3) shells. With these concerns in mind, a study published in December of 2019 in the journal Marine Biology looked at how juvenile abalone (Haliotis tuberculata), a type of sea snail, are affected by low carbonate seawater.

To examine how low seawater carbonate affects abalone physiology, researchers cultured six-month-old juvenile abalones for three months in seawater with various levels of CO3, representing current and predicted near-future conditions. They measured and compared survival and growth of the abalone, as well as the micro-structure, thickness, and strength of their shells, across a range of CO3 concentrations.

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Ocean acidification an aquaculture issue, not a climate change issue

Ocean acidification will be included in the aquaculture chapter of the Proposed Marlborough Environment Plan rather than the climate change chapter.

Ocean acidification will be included in the aquaculture chapter of the Proposed Marlborough Environment Plan rather than the climate change chapter.

A proposal to have ocean acidification addressed in the climate change chapter of Marlborough’s new environment plan has been knocked back, with it instead being addressed in the plan’s yet-to-be-released aquaculture chapter.

The Marine Farming Association and Aquaculture New Zealand made submissions in the Proposed Marlborough Environment Plan calling for the climate change chapter to be renamed “Climate Change and Ocean Acidification” and for policies to address the two challenges – both caused by increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The panel acknowledged the “serious potential threat” ocean acidification posed to Marlborough’s marine ecology but declined their submission on the grounds that ocean acidification was “not an effect of climate change”.

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Ocean acidification impacts oysters’ memory of environmental stress

shucked oysters

Empty Pacific oyster shells are placed on a mat after being sampled. The effect of acidified waters on multiple generations of Pacific oysters can influence aquaculture in Washington and globally.Yaamini Venkataraman/University of Washington

As oceans absorb more carbon dioxide, they are becoming increasingly acidic and shifting the delicate balance that supports marine life. How species will cope with ocean acidification and the other consequences of global climate change is still very much unknown and could have sweeping consequences.

Researchers from the University of Washington School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences have discovered that ocean acidification impacts the ability of some oysters to pass down “memories” of environmental trauma to their offspring.

The two papers were published in December in Ecological Applications and the Journal of Shellfish Research.

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book