Ecosystems under threat from ocean acidification

March 29, 2010, Society for General Microbiology

Acidification of the oceans as a result of increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide could have significant effects on marine ecosystems, according to Michael Maguire presenting at the Society for General Microbiology's spring meeting in Edinburgh this week.

Postgraduate researcher Mr Maguire, together with colleagues at Newcastle University, performed experiments in which they simulated ocean acidification as predicted by current trends of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The group found that the decrease in ocean pH (increased acidity) resulted in a sharp decline of a biogeochemically important group of bacteria known as the Marine Roseobacter clade. "This is the first time that a highly important bacterial group has been observed to decline in significant numbers with only a modest decrease in pH," said Mr Maguire.

The Marine Roseobacter clade is responsible for breaking down a sulphur compound called dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) that is produced by photosynthesising plankton. This end product is taken up and used by numerous bacteria as an important source of sulphur. A fraction of DMSP is turned into Dimethylsulfide (DMS) - a naturally occurring gas that influences the Earth's climate. DMS encourages the formation of clouds which reflect back into space leading to a cooling of the earth's surface.

Mr Maguire's group hypothesizes that the decline of the Marine Roseobacter clade through ocean acidification may alter the release of DMS into the atmosphere and affect the amount of available sulphur. He believes this will have a significant impact on the ocean's productivity and the overall global climate system. " will not only have large scale consequences for but also socio-economical consequences due to changes in fish stocks and erosion of ," he explained.

Explore further: Scientists Uncover Link Between Ocean's Chemical Processes and Microscopic Floating Plants

More information: Michael Maguire’s talk ‘Effects of increased ocean acidity on bacterial species and biochemical processes’ will take place on Monday 29 March at 1500 at the Society for General Microbiology’s spring meeting at Edinburgh International Conference Centre.

Related Stories

Carbon dioxide poses risk to marine life survival

August 6, 2008

( -- Climate change and the subsequent acidification of the world's oceans will significantly reduce the successful fertilisation of certain marine species by the year 2100, an international team of biological ...

Recommended for you

Arctic wintertime sea ice extent is among lowest on record

March 23, 2018

Sea ice in the Arctic grew to its annual maximum extent last week, and joined 2015, 2016 and 2017 as the four lowest maximum extents on record, according to scientists at the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center ...

Germany was covered by glaciers 450,000 years ago

March 23, 2018

The timing of the Middle Pleistocene glacial-interglacial cycles and the feedback mechanisms between climatic shifts and earth-surface processes are still poorly understood. This is largely due to the fact that chronological ...

Wood pellets: Renewable, but not carbon neutral

March 22, 2018

A return to firewood is bad for forests and the climate. So reports William Schlesinger, President Emeritus of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, in an Insights article published today in the journal Science.

The tradeoffs inherent in earthquake early warning systems

March 22, 2018

A team of researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey and the California Institute of Technology has found that modern earthquake early warning (EEW) systems require those interpreting their messages to take into consideration ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

2 / 5 (5) Mar 29, 2010
let me know when atomospheric co2 goes past .05%
2.5 / 5 (4) Mar 31, 2010

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.