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Report shows global warming threats to Mediterranean

‘We all need to act and there is no time to lose’

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The Ionian Sea near Ksamil, Albania. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — There’s no reason to believe that any of the world’s oceans will be spared the effects of global warming and ocean acidification, including the Mediterranean Sea, where rapid changes threaten numerous species and entire ecosystems, according to a new report from a team of European researchers.

“We knew next to nothing about the combined effects of warming and acidification in the Mediterranean until this study, now we know that they are a serious double threat to our marine ecosystems,” said project coordinator Patrizia Ziveri, from Institute of Environmental Science and Technology at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona. Continue reading

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Climate: Current rate of ocean acidification is 10 times faster than during ancient warming period

pteropod, ocean acidification

Ocean researchers say increasingly acidified water is eating away at the shells of tiny sea snails. Photo courtesy NOAA.

“The real unknown is how individual organisms will respond and how that cascades through ecosystems”

By Staff Report

FRISCO — The surge of carbon dioxide released by humankind’s use of fossil fuels may overwhelm the world’s oceans with an unprecedented rate of acidification, scientists said this week as they released a study showing historic rates of acidification.

Specifically, the researchers looked at pulse of CO2 that happened about 56 million years ago, when global temperatures soared and carbon sediments in the oceans simply dissolved, while some marine organisms went extinct. They traced the rate of acidification during that era by analyzing fossil chemistry, finding that ocean acidity may have increased by a 100 percent in just a few thousand years — and today’s rate is even higher.

Publishing the results of their study in the journal Paleoceanography, the scientists explained that the sudden increase kept acidity levels high for about 70,000 years and radically changed the ocean environment.
Continue reading

Climate: Scientists surprised by level of ocean acidification impacts off the West Coast of U.S.

pteropod, ocean acidification

Ocean researchers say increasingly acidified water is eating away at the shells of tiny sea snails. Photo courtesy NOAA.

In areas, more than half the sampled sea snail shells showed signs of deterioration

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Increasing concentration of carbon dioxide in the Pacific Ocean is dissolving the shells of tiny free-swimming snails off the West Coast, researchers said this week, confirming a troubling trend that’s been observed even in remote reaches of the Southern Ocean around Antarctica, where researchers with the British Antarctic Survey documented similar findings.

The estimates that the percentage of pteropods affected in the region has doubled since the pre-industrial era and is on track to triple by 2050, when coastal waters become 70 percent more corrosive than in the pre-industrial era due to human-caused ocean acidification.

The pteropods are part of the aquatic food chain, eaten by pink salmon, mackerel and herring. The scientists said they were surprised to find how widespread the impacts of ocean acidification are at this stage. Continue reading

Oceans: West Coast oysters facing multiple threats

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Oysters face an uncertain future.

Climate change makes young oysters more vulnerable to invasive snails

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — West Coast oysters could be facing a double whammy of global warming and invasive snails, according researchers with University of California, Davis’ Bodega Marine Laboratory.

Lab tests suggests that, as oceans become more acidic from the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, oysters will be smaller, and invasive snails will take a bigger toll.

Specifically, invasive snails ate 20 percent more juvenile oysters when both species were raised under ocean conditions forecast for the end of this century The results highlight the dangers of multiple stressors on ecosystems, said Eric Sanford, professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis and first author on the study. Continue reading

Study tracks natural variability of ocean acidity

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Ocean acidification will have impacts on most life in the coastal zone. bberwyn photo.

‘For vulnerable coastal marine ecosystems, this may be adding insult to injury …’

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — In addition to the long-term threat of ocean acidification resulting from increased atmospheric greenhouse gases, marine organisms also must deal with short-term spikes of increased acidity.

Those acute episodes are caused by a variety of natural factors, including temperature and algal activity, according to a new study led by researchers with Duke University, who took a close look at natural cycles of acidity in a North Carolina estuary.

“The natural short-term variability in acidity we observed over the course of one year exceeds 100-year global predictions for the ocean as a whole,” said  Zackary I. Johnson, a molecular biologists at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment. Continue reading

Global Warming: Some Arctic ocean organisms are unlikely to survive in increasingly acidic oceans

Some Arctic-dwelling copepods may not be able to survive increasingly acidic oceans.

Some Arctic-dwelling copepods may not be able to survive increasingly acidic oceans.

“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. Continue reading

Climate: Ocean acidification hard to swallow for some marine organisms

Research shows direct impact on sea urchin larvae

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Ocean acidification is affecting a wide range of marine organisms, from sea snails and oysters to clownfish and sea urchins. PHOTO COURTESY NICK HOBGOOD, VIA THE CREATIVE COMMONS.

By Summit Voice

*More Summit Voice coverage of ocean acidification is online here.

FRISCO — Sea urchins may be a canary in the coalmine for the impacts of ocean acidification, according to new research, which shows that the digestive function of the marine animals is impaired by acidified water.

About 25 percent of all the CO2 released into the atmosphere is absorbed by the oceans and converted to carbonic acid, making the water more acidic. Previous studies have showed that marine species and ecosystems can suffer in an acidified environment.

In one research project, scientists with the British Antarctic Survey showed how acidic water in the Southern Ocean is eating away at the shells of sea snails, and other research shows that the Arctic Ocean may be ground zero of acidification. Continue reading

Climate: Ocean acidification will have huge costs

Coral reef erosion is likely to outpace reef building this century

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The acidity of the world’s oceans could increase by 170 percent by the end of the century, as greenhouse gas emissions continue nearly unabated. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The legacy of historical fossil fuel emissions on ocean acidification will be felt for centuries, an international team of scientists concluded in a new report, warning that the world needs to prepare for major losses of ecosystem services.

If carbon dioxide emissions continue on their current trajectory, the acidity of the world’s oceans may increase by around 170 percent by the end of the century, the report found. People who rely on the ocean’s ecosystem services — often in developing countries — are especially vulnerable.

“What we can now say with high levels of confidence about ocean acidification sends a clear message,” said Ulf Riebesell, of the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany. “Globally we have to be prepared for significant economic and ecosystem service losses. But we also know that reducing the rate of carbon dioxide emissions will slow acidification. That has to be the major message for the COP19 meeting.” Continue reading

Climate: Can a lawsuit stop ocean acidification?

Conservation group eyes Clean Water Act as tool in climate fight

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Sea shells will not fare well as oceans absorb CO2. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — It’s not clear if anything — besides massive cuts in carbon dioxide emissions — can stop the acidification of oceans, but the Center for Biological Diversity would at least like to see the EPA try to water quality standards as a way to tackle the problem.

The conservation group last week filed a lawsuit against the EPA for failing to address ocean acidification that may already be killing oysters in Oregon and Washington and threatening a wide range of other sea life. The lawsuit challenges the EPA’s decision that seawaters in those two states meet water-quality standards meant to protect marine life despite disturbing increases in acidity. Continue reading

No corner of the ocean safe from global warming

Widespread impacts expected by the end of the century

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A rapidly melting glacier on Deception Island, near Antarctica, pours fresh water into the ocean. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A warming climate will fundamentally change nearly all the world’s oceans by the end of the century, researchers warned this week. In addition to oft-discussed impacts of warmer water temperatures and ocean acidification, climate change will also deplete dissolved oxygen and lower the overall productivity of marine ecosystems.

“When you look at the world ocean, there are few places that will be free of changes; most will suffer the simultaneous effects of warming, acidification, and reductions in oxygen and productivity,” said lead author Camilo Mora, assistant professor at the Department of Geography in the College of Social Sciences at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa.

The study described the full chain of events by which ocean biogeochemical changes triggered by manmade greenhouse gas emissions may cascade through marine habitats and organisms, penetrating to the deep ocean and eventually influencing humans. Continue reading

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