“Some marine animals may not be able to survive the impact of ocean acidification … ‘
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — Marine organisms with a limited natural habitat range will likely suffer the most as oceans become more acidic. Among the first to go may be tiny copepods in the Arctic Ocean living just beneath the surface. The crustaceans are a critical part of the ocean food web, helping to sustain many other animals.
“Our study found that some marine animals may not be able to survive the impact of ocean acidification, particularly the early-life stages,” said Dr, Ceri Lewis, with the University of Exeter. “This unique insight into how marine life will respond to future changes in the oceans has implications that reach far beyond the Arctic regions.”
The recent findings on ocean acidification impacts came from a research expedition conducted as part of the Catlin Arctic Survey. The study found that copepods that move large distances, migrating vertically across a wide range of pH conditions, have a better chance of surviving.
Some areas of the Arctic Ocean are already experiencing the fastest rates of acidification on the planet and, combined with sea-ice loss and warming temperatures, the impacts of climate change are likely to hit Arctic marine life first.
The scientists observed that the natural range of temperature and acidity under the ice that copepods experience on a day-to-day basis corresponded to their responses to the ocean acidification conditions predicted for 100 years’ time.
Until recently, it has been difficult to document what copepods and other marine life do when the Arctic Ocean is covered by sea ice, and more specifically what conditions they experience.
“Our work has shown that life experience matters when it comes to surviving stressors,” said Dr. Helen Findlay, with the Plymouth Marine Laboratory. “More studies are needed that link the natural environmental conditions to laboratory experiments. Ceri and I are planning to continue this line of work through a PhD studentship next year.”