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High-Frequency Dynamics of Ocean pH: A Multi-Ecosystem Comparison

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      Abstract

      The effect of Ocean Acidification (OA) on marine biota is quasi-predictable at best. While perturbation studies, in the form of incubations under elevated pCO 2, reveal sensitivities and responses of individual species, one missing link in the OA story results from a chronic lack of pH data specific to a given species' natural habitat. Here, we present a compilation of continuous, high-resolution time series of upper ocean pH, collected using autonomous sensors, over a variety of ecosystems ranging from polar to tropical, open-ocean to coastal, kelp forest to coral reef. These observations reveal a continuum of month-long pH variability with standard deviations from 0.004 to 0.277 and ranges spanning 0.024 to 1.430 pH units. The nature of the observed variability was also highly site-dependent, with characteristic diel, semi-diurnal, and stochastic patterns of varying amplitudes. These biome-specific pH signatures disclose current levels of exposure to both high and low dissolved CO 2, often demonstrating that resident organisms are already experiencing pH regimes that are not predicted until 2100. Our data provide a first step toward crystallizing the biophysical link between environmental history of pH exposure and physiological resilience of marine organisms to fluctuations in seawater CO 2. Knowledge of this spatial and temporal variation in seawater chemistry allows us to improve the design of OA experiments: we can test organisms with a priori expectations of their tolerance guardrails, based on their natural range of exposure. Such hypothesis-testing will provide a deeper understanding of the effects of OA. Both intuitively simple to understand and powerfully informative, these and similar comparative time series can help guide management efforts to identify areas of marine habitat that can serve as refugia to acidification as well as areas that are particularly vulnerable to future ocean change.

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      Coral reefs under rapid climate change and ocean acidification.

      Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration is expected to exceed 500 parts per million and global temperatures to rise by at least 2 degrees C by 2050 to 2100, values that significantly exceed those of at least the past 420,000 years during which most extant marine organisms evolved. Under conditions expected in the 21st century, global warming and ocean acidification will compromise carbonate accretion, with corals becoming increasingly rare on reef systems. The result will be less diverse reef communities and carbonate reef structures that fail to be maintained. Climate change also exacerbates local stresses from declining water quality and overexploitation of key species, driving reefs increasingly toward the tipping point for functional collapse. This review presents future scenarios for coral reefs that predict increasingly serious consequences for reef-associated fisheries, tourism, coastal protection, and people. As the International Year of the Reef 2008 begins, scaled-up management intervention and decisive action on global emissions are required if the loss of coral-dominated ecosystems is to be avoided.
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        Anthropogenic ocean acidification over the twenty-first century and its impact on calcifying organisms.

        Today's surface ocean is saturated with respect to calcium carbonate, but increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations are reducing ocean pH and carbonate ion concentrations, and thus the level of calcium carbonate saturation. Experimental evidence suggests that if these trends continue, key marine organisms--such as corals and some plankton--will have difficulty maintaining their external calcium carbonate skeletons. Here we use 13 models of the ocean-carbon cycle to assess calcium carbonate saturation under the IS92a 'business-as-usual' scenario for future emissions of anthropogenic carbon dioxide. In our projections, Southern Ocean surface waters will begin to become undersaturated with respect to aragonite, a metastable form of calcium carbonate, by the year 2050. By 2100, this undersaturation could extend throughout the entire Southern Ocean and into the subarctic Pacific Ocean. When live pteropods were exposed to our predicted level of undersaturation during a two-day shipboard experiment, their aragonite shells showed notable dissolution. Our findings indicate that conditions detrimental to high-latitude ecosystems could develop within decades, not centuries as suggested previously.
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          Oceanography: anthropogenic carbon and ocean pH.

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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            [1 ]Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology, University of California Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara California, United States of America
            [2 ]Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California, United States of America
            [3 ]Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Moss Landing, California, United States of America
            [4 ]Department of Biology, Stanford University, Hopkins Marine Station, Pacific Grove, California, United States of America
            [5 ]Institute of Marine Sciences, University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California, United States of America
            [6 ]Laboratory of Functional and Evolutionary Ecology, Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, Villa Comunale, Naples, Italy
            University of California Merced, United States of America
            Author notes

            Conceived and designed the experiments: GEH TRM JES KSJ US LAL FM AP. Performed the experiments: BP YT JES US AP NNP PGM EDC KJK MCG EBR CAF PCY. Analyzed the data: GEH JES KSJ US LAL FM AP NNP PGM EDC KJK EBR CAF PCY TRM. Wrote the paper: GEH TRM.

            Contributors
            Role: Editor
            Journal
            PLoS One
            plos
            plosone
            PLoS ONE
            Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
            1932-6203
            2011
            19 December 2011
            : 6
            : 12
            3242773
            22205986
            PONE-D-11-19773
            10.1371/journal.pone.0028983
            (Editor)
            Hofmann et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
            Counts
            Pages: 11
            Categories
            Research Article
            Biology
            Ecology
            Marine Ecology
            Marine Biology
            Marine Ecology
            Marine Monitoring
            Marine Technology
            Earth Sciences
            Marine and Aquatic Sciences
            Oceanography
            Chemical Oceanography
            Ocean Properties
            Marine Biology
            Marine Ecology

            Uncategorized

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