Sea-floor microbes may be affected by ailing shrimp in acidified oceans

August 29, 2013
Sea-floor microbes may be affected by ailing shrimp in acidified oceans

Disrupting just one process in the important relationship between microbes and bigger plants and animals that live in ocean floor sediment may have knock-on effects that could reduce the productivity of coastal ecosystems, according to international research published online yesterday in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.

Dr Bonnie Laverock, an Indian Ocean Marine Research Centre Research Fellow associated with The University of Western Australia, is the lead author of the paper which outlines the effects of on marine microorganisms.

Dr Laverock and her team from the UK and the US are the first to investigate the impacts of ocean acidification - caused by increasing concentrations of dissolved carbon dioxide - on the interactions between macro and micro-organisms in sediments.

"There has been very little work done so far on the microbial responses to ocean acidification in the benthic () zone," she said. "In particular, little is known about how microbial processes may be affected by the responses of larger animals or plants.

"We show that the presence of the mud shrimp can perform the useful task of increasing nitrification rates in coastal sediments, but that this enhanced ecosystem function is inhibited by ocean acidification. Our results indicate the importance of multi- in determining how individual organisms or groups of organisms will respond to environmental change."

Dr Laverock said previous studies had suggested that burrowing mud shrimp spent more time beating their pleopods (walking legs) to try to increase their in seas that are increasingly acidic. The shrimps' distress - and consequent alteration of their relationship with the nitrogen-cycling microbes that live in their sediment burrows - was just one example of an interwoven system breaking down.

Dr Laverock carried out the practical work for the study at Plymouth Marine Laboratory and is now investigating the contributing to ocean productivity in Western Australia.

"WA's coastlines support the highest diversity of seagrasses in the world, as well as a great diversity of kelps and seaweeds and a number of iconic species - such as dugongs and turtles - which rely on benthic productivity for food and/or shelter," she said.

"My work at UWA's Oceans Institute aims to examine these processes and the relationship between microbes and coastal productivity in WA now and in future oceans."

Explore further: Speed of ocean acidification concerns scientists

Related Stories

Speed of ocean acidification concerns scientists

September 27, 2012

Speaking at the Third International Symposium on the Ocean in a High-CO2 World this week in Monterey, California, Dr Daniela Schmidt, a geologist from the University of Bristol, warned that current rates of ocean acidification ...

Ocean acidification amplifies global warming (Update)

August 25, 2013

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology (MPI-M), Dr. Katharina Six, Dr. Silvia Kloster, Dr. Tatiana Ilyina, the late Dr. Ernst Maier-Reimer and two co-authors from the US, demonstrate that ocean acidification ...

Recommended for you

Global index proposed to avoid delays on climate policies

August 4, 2015

Professor David Frame, Director of Victoria's Climate Change Research Institute (CCRI), has co-authored a paper published today in the high profile international scientific journal Nature Climate Change. The paper argues ...

Researchers investigate increased ocean acidification

August 3, 2015

The primary cause of global ocean acidification is the oceanic absorption of CO2 from the atmosphere. Although this absorption helps to mitigate some of the effects of anthropogenic climate change, it has resulted in a reduction ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.