Feeds

Acid oceans DISSOLVING sea life

British Antarctic Survey says CO2 the villain behind bad news for tiny snails

Build a business case: developing custom apps

The shells of tiny sea snails called pteropods, or “sea butterflies”, are dissolving thanks to the acidification of sea water brought about to increasing levels of CO2 in the ocean, according to researchers from the British Antarctic Survey BAS).

A letter in Nature Geoscience titled Extensive dissolution of live pteropods in the Southern Ocean details the research, which according to BAS saw researchers examine “... an area of upwelling, where winds cause cold water to be pushed upwards from the deep to the surface of the ocean.” Such areas are of interest because their waters are “... usually more corrosive to a particular type of calcium carbonate (aragonite) that pteropods use to build their shells.”

A “saturation horizon” of 1000 metres is usually the depth at which ocean water becomes sufficiently corrosive to damage pteropod shells, but the sample taken by researchers came from just 200 metres down reached the same level of acidity.

BAS says “as a result of the additional influence of ocean acidification, this corrosive water severely dissolved the shells of pteropods.”

The paper and BAS go on to point the finger at anthropogenic CO2 as the reason for the extra acidity at 200 metres down.

BAS science cruise leader and a co-author of the paper, Dr Geraint Tarling, says “upwelling sites are natural phenomena that occur throughout the Southern Ocean” but adds his belief that “instances where they bring the ‘saturation horizon’ above 200m will become more frequent as ocean acidification intensifies in the coming years.”

Quite how he can make that prediction isn't made clear, but another co-author, The University of East Anglia's Dr Dorothee Bakker, says “Climate models project a continued intensification in Southern Ocean winds throughout the 21st century if atmospheric carbon dioxide continues to increase. In turn, this will increase wind-driven upwelling and potentially make instances of deep water — which is under-saturated in aragonite – penetrating into the upper ocean more frequent.” That could mean the saturation horizon rising even further in the future.

If that comes to pass, it's potentially bad news for pteropods and the other creatures that depend on their niche in the food chain. Of course there's plenty of room in what's been revealed about this study for sceptics to work with, too. A single upwelling does not a global threat make, and we all know how contentious climate models are. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
Brit amateur payload set to complete full circle around PLANET EARTH
Ultralight solar radio tracker in glorious 25,000km almost-space odyssey
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.