Effect of ocean acidification may not be so dire

Apr 15, 2013
Effect of ocean acidification may not be so dire
E. huxleyi are ocean-regulating shell producers that create oxygen as they process carbon by photosynthesis.

(Phys.org) —Marine scientists have long understood the detrimental effect of fossil fuel emissions on marine ecosystems. But a group led by a UC Santa Barbara professor has found a point of resilience in a microscopic shelled plant with a massive environmental impact, which suggests the future of ocean life may not be so bleak.

As increase, so does the amount of carbon dioxide oceans absorb and dissolve, lowering their . "As pH declines, there is this concern that marine species that have shells may start dissolving or may have more difficulty making , the chalky substance that they use to build shells," said Debora Iglesias-Rodriguez, a professor in UCSB's Department of Ecology, Evolution and .

Iglesias-Rodriguez and Bethan Jones, who is now at Rutgers University, led a large-scale study on the effects of ocean acidification on these tiny plants that can only be seen under the microscope. Their research, funded by the European Project on Ocean Acidification, is published in the journal PLoS ONE and breaks with traditional notions about the vitality of calcifiers, or creatures that make shells, in future ocean conditions.

"The story years ago was that ocean acidification was going to be bad, really bad for calcifiers," said Iglesias-Rodriguez, whose team discovered that one species of the tiny single celled marine coccolithophore, Emiliania huxleyi, actually had bigger shells in high carbon dioxide seawater conditions. While the team acknowledges that calcification tends to decline with acidification, "we now know that there are variable responses in , in , in all shelled organisms that we find in the sea."

These E. huxleyi are a large army of ocean-regulating shell producers that create oxygen as they process carbon by photosynthesis and fortify the ocean food chain. As one of the Earth's main vaults for environmentally harmful carbon emissions, their survival affects organisms inside and outside the marine system. However, as increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide causes seawater to slide down the pH scale toward acidic levels, this environment could become less hospitable.

UCSB scientists find resilience in shelled plants exposed to ocean acidification
This is a sample of an Emiliania huxleyi NZEH culture. Credit: UCSB

The UCSB study incorporated an approach known as shotgun proteomics to uncover how E. huxleyi's biochemistry could change in future high carbon dioxide conditions, which were set at four times the current levels for the study. This approach casts a wider investigative net that looks at all changes and influences in the environment as opposed to looking at individual processes like photosynthesis.

Shotgun proteomics examines the type, abundance, and alterations in proteins to understand how a cell's machinery is conditioned by . "There is no perfect approach," said Iglesias-Rodriguez. "They all have their caveats, but we think that this is a way of extracting a lot of information from this system."

To mirror natural ocean conditions, the team used over half a ton of seawater to grow the E. huxleyi and bubbled in carbon dioxide to recreate both present day and high future carbon levels. It took more than six months for the team to grow enough plants to accumulate and analyze sufficient proteins.

The team found that E. huxleyi cells exposed to higher carbon dioxide conditions were larger and contained more shell than those grown in current conditions. However, they also found that these larger cells grow slower than those under current carbon dioxide conditions. Aside from slower growth, the higher carbon dioxide levels did not seem to affect the cells even at the biochemical level, as measured by the shotgun proteomic approach.

"The E. huxleyi increased the amount of calcite they had because they kept calcifying but slowed down division rates," said Iglesias-Rodriguez. "You get fewer cells but they look as healthy as those under current ocean conditions, so the shells are not simply dissolving away."

The team stresses that while representatives of this species seem to have biochemical mechanisms to tolerate even very high levels of carbon dioxide, slower growth could become problematic. If other species grow faster, E. huxleyi could be outnumbered in some areas.

"The cells in this experiment seemed to tolerate future ," said Jones. "However, what will happen to this species in the future is still an open question. Perhaps the grow-slow outcome may end up being their downfall as other species could simply outgrow and replace them."

Explore further: Shell files new plan to drill in Arctic

More information: Bethan M. Jones, M. Debora Iglesias-Rodriguez, Paul J. Skipp, Richard J. Edwards, Mervyn J. Greaves, Jeremy R. Young, Henry Elderfield, C. David O'Connor (2013) Responses of the Emiliania huxleyi proteome to ocean acidification. PLoS ONE, dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0061868

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User comments : 16

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Birger
3.7 / 5 (11) Apr 15, 2013
So E. huxleyi may be doing great, too bad for the other gazillion shell-forming species...
antigoracle
2.4 / 5 (26) Apr 15, 2013
The only thing that would go extinct from GW are the AGW Alarmist, when their lies hit the fan.
NikFromNYC
2.5 / 5 (24) Apr 15, 2013
"Marine scientists have long understood the detrimental effect of fossil fuel emissions on marine ecosystems."

Oh please! Grant seeking ignores the massive double digit percentage boosts in all ecosystems that love CO2, the molecule that defines life on Earth, as every school kid has known for many generations except the Al Gore indoctrinated one. James Hansen's last publication as a NASA scientist claims that CO2 emissions are not even lingering exactly because the massive oceans and forests are sucking it up quite enthusiastically. Only dysfunctional neurosis of outward projected self-disgust explains the useful idiocy that supports instead of bluntly rejects the terribly obvious and brazen scientific fraud at the heart of climatology. The latest is a new Nature journal hockey stick that Mann posted twenty times about on Facebook as supporting his IPCC featured hockey stick but there is no hockey stick in any of the 73 extremely messy input data plots! Yet it passed peer review?!
Lurker2358
2.7 / 5 (18) Apr 15, 2013
So E. huxleyi may be doing great, too bad for the other gazillion shell-forming species...


You shouldn't believe everything you're told.

Experiments like this are done without adaptation time, just insertion into a new evironment.

Moreover, about one third of species tested actually benefit as CO2 increases, while another third are unaffected.

Additionally, 1600PPM CO2, or 4 times present levels, will probably never be reached unless an almost worst case carbon bomb happened, which isn't going to happen.
Egleton
4.2 / 5 (5) Apr 15, 2013
Jellyfish will be the big winner. Yum.
QuixoteJ
2.1 / 5 (16) Apr 15, 2013
[the article]As fossil fuel emissions increase, so does the amount of carbon dioxide oceans absorb and dissolve, lowering their pH levels.
Aren't fossil fuel emissions only responsible for a fraction of a percent of total atmospheric CO2? Like, less than the accuracy of the methods that measure it?
Moebius
3 / 5 (14) Apr 15, 2013
"Effect of ocean acidification may not be so dire"

The key word here is MAY so lets Russian roulette with the six shooter, there MAY be no rounds in it, there MAY be 1 in it or there MAY be 6 in it.
la7dfa
4.6 / 5 (11) Apr 15, 2013
Funny how the non scientific trolls gather on scientific subjects.
Science is constantly evolving and researching to find the truth, while the trolls will be stupid preprogrammed cavemen until end of time.
antigoracle
2.1 / 5 (15) Apr 16, 2013
Funny how the non scientific trolls gather on scientific subjects.
Science is constantly evolving and researching to find the truth, while the trolls will be stupid preprogrammed cavemen until end of time.

Funny, NOT, how the AGW Alarmist Cult come here and pretend to know science.
Maggnus
3.7 / 5 (9) Apr 16, 2013
One of the problems is that typically you are not dealing with the facts. Putting in more facts makes the sceptics more angry. They have profound beliefs – as opposed to knowledge – that they are willing to protect by all manner of psychological tricks. So you have people who are very smart - even great analysts and hedge fund managers - who on paper know that their argument is wrong, but who promote it fiercely because they are libertarians. Libertarians believe that any government interference is bad. Anyone with a brain knows that climate change needs governmental leadership and they can smell this is bad news for their philosophy. Their ideology is so strongly held that remarkably it's overcoming the facts. They are using incredible ingenuity to steer their way around facts that they do not choose to accept philosophically. Laying down more facts just makes them more angry. You may win over a few neutrals. They are the people you can win over.
Maggnus
3.5 / 5 (8) Apr 16, 2013
If you're saying something that people don't want to hear or accept, a significant proportion of them will reply with hostility. Not because they know the facts, or because they have researched it themselves, but because they're so psychologically involved in believing good news that they will oppose it with a reflex. In addition, if the solutions proposed sound like they involve the government, you will have all the political rightwing try to block it as a reflex, even if it means them overriding hard science, which is what's going on today.


From here: http://www.guardi...-climate

Seems to me that such understandings of so called "denialists" is becoming public knowledge.
VENDItardE
1.7 / 5 (11) Apr 16, 2013
give it up Maggnus, you are not now, never have been and never will be correct on this issue.
ryggesogn2
1.9 / 5 (14) Apr 16, 2013
Earth changes, has changed, life adapts.
Howhot
4.4 / 5 (7) Apr 17, 2013
I nominate @NikFromNYC to be the one of the first inducted into Al-Gore's re-education internment camps for the Anthopogenically challenged! With a little effort, he too can be an Al Gore indoctrinated one.
deepsand
3.2 / 5 (13) Apr 17, 2013
Earth changes, has changed, life adapts.

It has to if it's to survive the consequences of the stupidity of you and your ilk.
deepsand
3 / 5 (12) Apr 17, 2013
Funny how the non scientific trolls gather on scientific subjects.
Science is constantly evolving and researching to find the truth, while the trolls will be stupid preprogrammed cavemen until end of time.

Funny, NOT, how the AGW Alarmist Cult come here and pretend to know science.

Hilarious, coming from one whose knowledge and understanding of Science is vanishingly small.