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Acidic oceans of the future show extinction

July 30, 2013

A glimpse of future ocean chemistry finds that acidification transforms entire ecosystems. Ocean acidification may create an impact similar to extinction on marine ecosystems, according to a study published Monday. The study, exploring naturally acidic waters near volcanic vents in the Mediterranean Ocean off Italy, suggests that ocean acidification as a result of human emissions can degrade entire ecosystems – not just individual species, as past studies have shown.

Kroeker and colleagues studied waters surrounding Castello Aragonese, a 14th century castle off the coast of Italy where volcanic vents naturally release bubbles of carbon dioxide gas. The vents create different levels of acidity on the reef. These gradients gave the scientists a glimpse of what a future marked by increasingly acidic ocean waters could look like – and how the creatures and plants living in those environments may react to a disturbance.

The researchers selected three reef zones: low, high and extremely high acidity, representing world ocean conditions for the present day, 2100 and 2500, respectively. Then they removed animals and vegetation from the rocks there. Every few months for three years, Kroeker dived to the study plots to photograph them and watch how plots in each zone recovered.

Fischer D, Acidic oceans of the future show extinction, Daily Climate, July 2013. Article.

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