New research published in Global Change Biology shows that at least four types of shellfish (clams, sea snails, lamp shells and sea urchins) are experiencing a loss of shell mass and weight due to acidifying seawater. There is the chance that they will adapt to the new circumstances, as they have done before, but also the risk that they will become scarcer in the future, bringing an ecological sea change.
The international team of researchers analyzed the conditions of shellfish in 12 different environments, finding that the effect of acidification on the animals was stronger in the Polar Regions.
‘Where it gets colder and the calcium carbonate is harder to get out of the sea water, the animals have thinner skeletons,’ said Professor Lloyd S. Peck, co-author of the study. ‘We think that the polar regions, and especially Antarctica, are likely to be the first places where animals reach these critical problems for making skeletons.’
Ocean acidification is the consequence of increasing CO2 emissions. According to the Carbon Dioxide Program, an initiative of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the acidity of sea water has risen about 30% since the start of the Industrial Revolution, and could rise another 150% during this century.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Sue-Ann Watson, Lloyd S. Peck, Paul A. Tyler, Paul C. Southgate, Koh Siang Tan, Robert W. Day, & Simon A. Morley (2012). Marine invertebrate skeleton size varies with latitude, temperature and carbonate saturation: implications for global change and ocean acidification Global Change Biology DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2012.02755.x