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      Ocean Acidification: The Other CO2Problem

      1 , 2 , 3 , 4
      Annual Review of Marine Science
      Annual Reviews

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          Abstract

          Rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), primarily from human fossil fuel combustion, reduces ocean pH and causes wholesale shifts in seawater carbonate chemistry. The process of ocean acidification is well documented in field data, and the rate will accelerate over this century unless future CO2 emissions are curbed dramatically. Acidification alters seawater chemical speciation and biogeochemical cycles of many elements and compounds. One well-known effect is the lowering of calcium carbonate saturation states, which impacts shell-forming marine organisms from plankton to benthic molluscs, echinoderms, and corals. Many calcifying species exhibit reduced calcification and growth rates in laboratory experiments under high-CO2 conditions. Ocean acidification also causes an increase in carbon fixation rates in some photosynthetic organisms (both calcifying and noncalcifying). The potential for marine organisms to adapt to increasing CO2 and broader implications for ocean ecosystems are not well known; both are high priorities for future research. Although ocean pH has varied in the geological past, paleo-events may be only imperfect analogs to current conditions.

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          Most cited references138

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          High-resolution carbon dioxide concentration record 650,000-800,000 years before present.

          Changes in past atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations can be determined by measuring the composition of air trapped in ice cores from Antarctica. So far, the Antarctic Vostok and EPICA Dome C ice cores have provided a composite record of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels over the past 650,000 years. Here we present results of the lowest 200 m of the Dome C ice core, extending the record of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration by two complete glacial cycles to 800,000 yr before present. From previously published data and the present work, we find that atmospheric carbon dioxide is strongly correlated with Antarctic temperature throughout eight glacial cycles but with significantly lower concentrations between 650,000 and 750,000 yr before present. Carbon dioxide levels are below 180 parts per million by volume (p.p.m.v.) for a period of 3,000 yr during Marine Isotope Stage 16, possibly reflecting more pronounced oceanic carbon storage. We report the lowest carbon dioxide concentration measured in an ice core, which extends the pre-industrial range of carbon dioxide concentrations during the late Quaternary by about 10 p.p.m.v. to 172-300 p.p.m.v.
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            Climate-driven trends in contemporary ocean productivity.

            Contributing roughly half of the biosphere's net primary production (NPP), photosynthesis by oceanic phytoplankton is a vital link in the cycling of carbon between living and inorganic stocks. Each day, more than a hundred million tons of carbon in the form of CO2 are fixed into organic material by these ubiquitous, microscopic plants of the upper ocean, and each day a similar amount of organic carbon is transferred into marine ecosystems by sinking and grazing. The distribution of phytoplankton biomass and NPP is defined by the availability of light and nutrients (nitrogen, phosphate, iron). These growth-limiting factors are in turn regulated by physical processes of ocean circulation, mixed-layer dynamics, upwelling, atmospheric dust deposition, and the solar cycle. Satellite measurements of ocean colour provide a means of quantifying ocean productivity on a global scale and linking its variability to environmental factors. Here we describe global ocean NPP changes detected from space over the past decade. The period is dominated by an initial increase in NPP of 1,930 teragrams of carbon a year (Tg C yr(-1)), followed by a prolonged decrease averaging 190 Tg C yr(-1). These trends are driven by changes occurring in the expansive stratified low-latitude oceans and are tightly coupled to coincident climate variability. This link between the physical environment and ocean biology functions through changes in upper-ocean temperature and stratification, which influence the availability of nutrients for phytoplankton growth. The observed reductions in ocean productivity during the recent post-1999 warming period provide insight on how future climate change can alter marine food webs.
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              Evidence for upwelling of corrosive "acidified" water onto the continental shelf.

              The absorption of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) into the ocean lowers the pH of the waters. This so-called ocean acidification could have important consequences for marine ecosystems. To better understand the extent of this ocean acidification in coastal waters, we conducted hydrographic surveys along the continental shelf of western North America from central Canada to northern Mexico. We observed seawater that is undersaturated with respect to aragonite upwelling onto large portions of the continental shelf, reaching depths of approximately 40 to 120 meters along most transect lines and all the way to the surface on one transect off northern California. Although seasonal upwelling of the undersaturated waters onto the shelf is a natural phenomenon in this region, the ocean uptake of anthropogenic CO2 has increased the areal extent of the affected area.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Annual Review of Marine Science
                Annu. Rev. Mar. Sci.
                Annual Reviews
                1941-1405
                1941-0611
                January 2009
                January 2009
                : 1
                : 1
                : 169-192
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543; email:
                [2 ]Department of Biological Sciences, California State University, San Marcos, California 92096; email:
                [3 ]Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Seattle, Washington 98115; email:
                [4 ]Institute for the Study of Society and Environment, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado 80307; email:
                Article
                10.1146/annurev.marine.010908.163834
                21141034
                8f8d6820-d399-456f-984d-86cd7d3a79ff
                © 2009
                History

                Earth & Environmental sciences,Chemistry,Engineering,Social & Behavioral Sciences,Economics,Life sciences

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