Marine vegetation can mitigate ocean acidification, study finds

Marine vegetation can mitigate ocean acidification, study finds
Study authors Nyssa Silbiger, then a UCI postdoctoral researcher, and UCI graduate student Laura Elsberry (standing) survey tide-pool communities at Corona del Mar State Beach. Credit: Cascade Sorte / UCI

Marine plants and seaweeds in shallow coastal ecosystems can play a key role in alleviating the effects of ocean acidification, and their robust population in shoreline environments could help preserve declining shellfish life, according to a study by University of California, Irvine ecologists.

In a new study on the Pacific Coast, Nyssa Silbiger, former UCI postdoctoral researcher, and Cascade Sorte, assistant professor of ecology & evolutionary biology, determined that and seaweeds decrease the acidity of their surroundings through photosynthesis. Their findings suggest that maintaining native seawater vegetation could locally lessen the acidifying effects of rising CO2 levels on marine animals who are sensitive to ocean pH, which has declined since preindustrial times.

The study results appear online in the open-access Scientific Reports. "Our findings from sites spanning some 1,000 miles of coastline show that plays a leading role in driving local pH conditions," Sorte said.

About 90 percent of fishery catch comes from coastal ecosystems. Any coastal pH decrease has a major impact on animals such as corals, oysters and mussels, whose shells and skeletons can become more brittle in low-pH environments.

This is a major concern for shellfish fisheries, which contribute over $1 billion annually to the U.S. economy while providing more than 100,000 jobs.

Due to their findings, the authors recommend efforts to conserve marine plants and seaweeds in shoreline habitats, including where commercial seafood is harvested.

"The environmental and economic consequences resulting from are dire," said Silbiger, now an assistant professor of biology at California State University, Northridge. "Decreasing CO2 emissions is still the No. 1 most important way to protect our marine ecosystems, but our research indicates that marine life also has substantial control over coastal pH."


Explore further

Ocean acidification takes a toll on California's coastline at nighttime

More information: Nyssa J. Silbiger et al. Biophysical feedbacks mediate carbonate chemistry in coastal ecosystems across spatiotemporal gradients, Scientific Reports (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-18736-6
Journal information: Scientific Reports

Citation: Marine vegetation can mitigate ocean acidification, study finds (2018, January 22) retrieved 19 September 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2018-01-marine-vegetation-mitigate-ocean-acidification.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
233 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

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