Ocean acidification study offers warnings for marine life, habitats
Sea grass beds, like these off the coast of British Columbia, Canada, might buffer the impacts of ocean acidification.Christopher Harley,University of British Columbia
Acidification of the world’s oceans could drive a cascading loss of biodiversity in some marine habitats, according to research published Nov. 21 in Nature Climate Change.
The work by biodiversity researchers from the University of British Columbia, the University of Washington and colleagues in the U.S., Europe, Australia, Japan and China, combines dozens of existing studies to paint a more nuanced picture of the impact of ocean acidification.
While most research in the field focuses on the impact of ocean acidification on individual species, the new work predicts how acidification will affect the living habitats such as corals, seagrasses and kelp forests that form the homes of other ocean species.
“Not too surprisingly, species diversity in calcium carbonate-based habitats like coral reefs and mussel beds were projected to decline with increased ocean acidification,” said lead author Jennifer Sunday, a UBC zoologist and biodiversity researcher. Species that use calcium carbonate to build their shells and skeletons, like mussels and corals, are expected to be particularly vulnerable to acidification.
“The more complex responses are those of seagrass beds that are vital to many fisheries species. These showed the potential to increase the number of species they can support, but the real-world evidence so far shows that they’re not reaching this potential. This highlights a need to focus not only on individual species, but on how the supportive habitat that sets nature’s stage responds and interacts to climate change.”
. . .The researchers focused their study on the impact of ocean acidification on coral reefs, mussel beds, kelp forests and seagrass meadows that form the homes of thousands of marine species. They used observations of altered habitats around the world to project how changes in these habitats brought on by ocean acidification will impact the number of species that each habitat can support. . .
Coral ecosystems, like these pictured off the coast of Mexico, will be hit hard as the oceans become more acidic.Christopher Harley, University of British Columbia
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Ocean Acidification study offers warnings for marine life, habitats
November 21, 2016
See UBC news release.