Acidic oceans could aid photosynthesis

May 18, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Groundbreaking Victoria University research shows that ocean acidification may have no negative effect on tropical corals and local sea anemones - in fact it may improve photosynthesis.

Ocean acidification is when carbon dioxide from the atmosphere dissolves into our oceans and makes them more acidic. Research to date has shown that if carbon dioxide emissions are not reduced, ocean acidification could have severe—and irreversible—consequences for marine life.

But Victoria Master’s student Michael Doherty says his research shows that ocean acidification has no negative effect on in the coral and sea anemone he studied, and that it might actually improve the process.

“Plants and get carbon from the in the form of carbon dioxide, and photosynthesis is the process by which the organism turns this carbon into sugar—providing essential energy for life. Algae live within ‘animals’ like corals and anemones, and through photosynthesis provide energy for themselves and the animal,” says Mr Doherty.

“What we found is that was making the algae photosynthesise more, because more was available to them. This means they produce more energy for themselves and, as a result, for the animal too.”

However, he says the energy needs of the animal seem to increase too, meaning the coral or anemone is likely to be no better or worse off.

He says it’s important to note that although from a photosynthetic point of view tropical corals may be fine in acidic waters, there is still a risk.

“The tropical coral already faces a problem in that it won’t be able to form a skeleton in predicted acidic conditions. Sea anemones on the other hand won’t face this problem because they have no skeleton to begin with—so it’s entirely likely that they could be better off in acidic waters.”

He says the value of coral reef communities to human life cannot be understated. “Fifteen percent of the world’s population lives within 100 km of a coral reef, and millions depend on this resource for their survival. This research better equips us to predict and manage the impacts of climate change on this extremely important ecosystem.”

He also says research in this field is particularly important for New Zealand. “Acidified oceans are predicted to hit the poles first and head to the equator—meaning that New Zealand will experience it before the tropics do. What we see here is an indicator for what may happen in the more diverse and economically important regions elsewhere.”

Provided by Victoria University

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El_Nose
not rated yet May 18, 2009
--- just wanna start a discussion

A) -- i believe we (humans) have intentionally and unintentionally started accellerated climate change

-- but ( discussion point) -- carbon/hydrocarbons eventually would have naturally increased over time ... and oceans would naturally become a bit more acidic over time // would not evolutionary traits and specialized features be necessary to overcome this natural process --- we have made it fast and worse NO DOUBT --- but will we not see an era of adaptation and ecosystem flux; isn't this what evolution all about -- or are we making an environment so extreme we are creating a place where only "surival of the fittest" ,which darwin never said according to my biologist friends, where happenstance will see the emergance of new species??

PPihkala
not rated yet May 18, 2009
Problem with human induced change is it's speed. Many animals and plants can not adapt this fast to these new challenges. Previously such changes have taken much longer times, like thousands of years. Now in less than hundred years CO2 has risen lots and it keeps rising.
JaguarEye
5 / 5 (1) May 19, 2009
Great discovery... Yet the introduction stated that it could be shown that there ocean acidification has "no negative affect" on tropical corals... however, one of the largest environmental concerns is the effect on coral structural formation (and microscopic diatoms as well) The article did mention that this was still a problem, yet it seemed to vastly understate the criticalness of this problem. So although one problem was ruled out, I think the intro was misleading... So your on the right track but please try to stay precise in the discussion. We need to be on point to maintain credibility in the process of enlightining the unaware, some of whom have very short attention spans.

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