Ocean Acidification Is Most Damaging At Night, Study Finds

Posted: Mar 18 2016, 10:54pm CDT | by , Updated: Mar 20 2016, 10:19pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News


Ocean Acidification is Most Damaging at Night, Study Finds
Researchers studied changes in tide pools near the Bodega Marine Laboratory. Credit: Ken Caldeira/Carnegie)

Ocean acidification is a major threat to marine life especially to those with calcium carbonate shells such as mussels or oysters.

Ocean acidification is a growing threat to marine life across the globe. Researchers from the University of California have conducted an extensive study along California’s coastline and found that ocean acidification is even more damaging during nighttime.

As the ocean soaks more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the more it causes changes to the chemistry of the water and makes it more acidic. The process is called ocean acidifcation.

Marine animals like mussels and oysters use calcium carbonate as a building block for creating their skeletons or shells. Increasing ocean acidification reduces the availability of the mineral and makes it difficult for these organisms to construct and maintain their shells. In high concentrations, carbon can even cause these shells to dissolve entirely.

“There is a lot of concern about how ocean acidification is going to affect marine species in the future, but most of our understanding comes from laboratory studies where a single organism is exposed to acidified seawater under very controlled conditions for a short period of time,” said co-author Krsity Kroeker, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UC Santa Cruz. “In reality, every organism is embedded in a complex community that experiences dynamic environmental conditions that will gradually change over time.”

Oceans absorb almost 40% of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The carbon dioxide concentrations are steadily rising due to emissions from burning of fossil fuels and reacts with seawater, pushing it towards the acidic end of pH scale and reducing its alkalinity.

In the new study, researchers closely monitored the conditions in tide pools along California’s rocky coastline and used advanced technology to measure the effects. During the daytime, plants use sun’s light to convert carbon dioxide and water for producing energy for themselves in a process that is known as photosynthesis. But at night, the process of photosynthesis stops, worsens the effects of carbon dioxide and increases ocean acidification.

“Tide pools are home to lot of different species that regularly experience daily swing in chemistry,” said Kroeker. “Tide pools can experience particularly corrosive seawater during nighttime low tides, when all of the animals are ‘exhaling’ carbon dioxide into the water that has been cut off from the ocean.”

The study reflects how entire marine communities will respond to this increasing threat of ocean acidification and how much it's difficult for marine species to survive due to this process. 

Coauthor Ken Caldeira from Carnegie Institute says. “If what we see happening along California’s coast today is indicative of what will continue in the coming decades, by the year 2050 there will likely be twice as much nighttime dissolution as there is today. Nobody really knows how our coastal ecosystems will respond to these corrosive waters, but it certainly won’t be well.” 


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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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