Acidification affects the ability of bacteria to clean our oceans

January 12, 2016, Expertsvar
Credit: Tiago Fioreze / Wikipedia

Marine bacteria are heavily influenced by the ongoing ocean acidification caused by human emissions of carbon dioxide. This discovery was made by researchers at Linnaeus University, Sweden, together with researchers in Spain. The results are presented in an article in the recognised scientific journal Nature Climate Change.

"It is well known that the acidification of our oceans causes the degradation of coral reefs and disturbs the production of the calcareous shells of important phytoplankton", says Jarone Pinhassi, professor in marine microbiology at Linnaeus University in Kalmar, Sweden. "However, it is new that also bacteria are affected negatively by ".

Researchers at Linnaeus University can now show that bacteria in the that are exposed to acidification are forced to significantly alter their metabolism; from focusing on degradation to investing energy on dealing with the acid in the water.

Bacteria in our oceans play a crucial role in the global cycle of elements necessary to life.

They act primarily as degraders of organic material produced by microscopic algae in the ocean, or material released through wastewater. When algae or other organisms die and are degraded by bacteria, these miniscule organisms function as the of the ocean. At the same time, bacteria help release nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous, which are essential to the food chain.

It is estimated that the world's oceans will become three times more acid towards the end of this century if human emissions of carbon dioxide from combustion of fossil fuels continue at current rates.

"It has generally been assumed that increased concentrations of carbon dioxide in the water – and the ocean acidification this causes – will primarily affect the production of the marine ecosystem by affecting the algal photosynthesis", says Jarone Pinhassi. "Now our genetic analyses show that ocean acidification directly affect how bacteria regulate their metabolism".

In every litre of seawater there are around 1 billion bacterial cells. In a manner similar to how gut microbiota is important to the well-being of humans, bacteria in our oceans play a critical role in determining the health of marine ecosystems. For example, bacteria synthesise vitamins on which algae and other organisms in the oceans depend.

"In order to understand the consequences of future on the productivity of the ocean, it is essential to carry out research on how bacteria respond to human emissions of ", says Jarone Pinhassi. "Perhaps we can even learn how to take advantage of the genetic adaptations of marine , in order to make better use of the resources of our planet."

Explore further: Marine bacteria unfazed by rising ocean acidification

More information: Carina Bunse et al. Response of marine bacterioplankton pH homeostasis gene expression to elevated CO2, Nature Climate Change (2016). DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2914

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3.3 / 5 (7) Jan 12, 2016
"It has generally been assumed that increased concentrations of carbon dioxide in the water – and the ocean acidification this causes – will primarily affect the production of the marine ecosystem by affecting the algal photosynthesis"

"Our results and literature reports on growth at lowered pH indicate that marine phytoplankton in general are resistant to climate change in terms of ocean acidification, and do not increase or decrease their growth rates according to ecological relevant ranges of pH and free CO2"


"Compared with populations kept at ambient CO2 partial pressure, those selected at increased partial pressure exhibited higher growth rates, in both the single- and multiclone experiment, when tested under ocean acidification conditions."


5 / 5 (3) Jan 12, 2016
I gave that comment a 5 because you did what you should have been doing all along: providing peer reviewed evidence, over empty personal opinion.

The aspect you have drawn our attention to is likely not settled science. To say it "has generally been assumed" is not equivalent to saying IT IS KNOWN, if that is what you are getting at. Regardless of whether this is true, the point is that the results of the experiment mentioned here indicate that phytoplankton MIGHT ALSO be negatively affected by the reduced capacity of bacteria to clean the oceans.

All the same, thanks for the peer reviewed articles.

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