Biology

Study shows warming, acidifying oceans could dissolve sea creatures

When exposed to conditions that already occur in some parts of the ocean, invertebrate aquatic creatures called bryozoans were found to start dissolving
When exposed to conditions that already occur in some parts of the ocean, invertebrate aquatic creatures called bryozoans were found to start dissolving
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When exposed to conditions that already occur in some parts of the ocean, invertebrate aquatic creatures called bryozoans were found to start dissolving
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When exposed to conditions that already occur in some parts of the ocean, invertebrate aquatic creatures called bryozoans were found to start dissolving
Bryozoans (seen here as the white "frosting") often grow on kelp
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Bryozoans (seen here as the white "frosting") often grow on kelp

Warming oceans might sound like a good thing for swimmers and surfers, but they're wreaking havoc on the plants and animals that call those waters home. Australia's Great Barrier Reef has undergone two consecutive years of severe coral bleaching, from which large swathes of it might not recover. Now, research out of the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) has found some more bad news. A combination of warming and acidifying waters can cause invertebrate organisms called bryozoa (or moss animals) to start dissolving – and other sea creatures could soon face a similar fate.

The increasing amounts of carbon dioxide we pump into the atmosphere isn't just polluting the air: a huge chunk of that is being absorbed by the ocean. That in turn is increasing the acidity of the waters, which could have all sorts of unexpected consequences on the wildlife.

To investigate just what those effects might be, the UC Davis team raised tanks of bryozoans, invertebrate aquatic organisms that often grow on the surface of kelp. Each of the tanks had different levels of water temperature and acidity, as well as varying their access to food. Alarmingly, when the bryozoans were raised in warmer waters and then exposed to more acidic waters – conditions that already exist off the coast of California – large parts of the creatures dissolved completely in a matter of months.

"We thought there would be some thinning or reduced mass," says Dan Swezey, lead author of the study. "But whole features just dissolved practically before our eyes."

On closer inspection, the scientists found that the animals brought up in warmer temperatures were using more magnesium to build their skeletons, which they mostly make out of calcium carbonate, and the effect was exacerbated if food was less abundant. The researchers aren't sure why these conditions led the bryozoans to increase their magnesium intake, but unfortunately, the elevated levels of the element in their skeletons makes them dissolve more easily.

Bryozoans (seen here as the white "frosting") often grow on kelp
Bryozoans (seen here as the white "frosting") often grow on kelp

It wasn't for lack trying, either. The researchers found that in response to increased acidity, the stressed out animals turned more of their energy towards growing, but they were dissolving faster than they could add new mass.

Bryozoans aren't the only sea creatures that grow by building calcareous skeletons, and the scientists consider them a canary in the coal mine for other species, like starfish, sea urchins, tube worms and some algae.

"Marine life is increasingly faced with many changes at once," says Eric Sanford, co-author of the study. "For bryozoans, their response to warmer temperature makes them unexpectedly vulnerable to ocean acidification. The question now is whether other marine species might respond in a similar way."

The research was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

Source: UC Davis

8 comments
Mark Uzick
The earth has had many much warmer periods that were always followed by much higher CO2 levels (Notice how that causality reversal contradicts the lies we're told?) but the oceans still team with life and the world didn't come to an end; so what does that say about this ocean acidification doomsday projection? more lies, that's what.
Bob
So evolutionists, why aren't these creatures evolving to survive? These temperatures and high CO2 levels have existed before. What happened back then? Did other organisms replace them? Don't your fossil history records along with your evolutionary diagrams and theories show anything? If the earth survived before, why wouldn't it survive this time?
aksdad
Anyone who has ever kept a saltwater aquarium knows that when you mess with the temperature, chemical composition, and pH, bad things happen to your fish and corals. All these scientists did was replicate what every saltwater aquarium owner already knows. In the real ocean, change is not nearly so drastic (except when it is) and organisms adapt (or they don't). And what's happening in the oceans is much different than the Climatistas would have us believe. They love hyperbole, but actual measurements not so much. Here's the closest instrument buoy to the Great Barrier Reef: https://www.pmel.noaa.gov/co2/story/Heron+Island You can see clearly that seawater CO2 saturation fluctuates up and down with far greater magnitude seasonally than any modest (and almost undetectable) increases over time from absorbing increasing atmospheric CO2. This seasonal cycle apparently does no harm to the corals and fishes as it's been happening for millions of years. Coral bleaching is caused by many things which you can read about at Wikipedia here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coral_bleaching No one has yet found human CO2 emissions to be a significant cause of coral bleaching. However, significant factors in the western Pacific are fluctuating water temperature, lowered sea level and the resulting increased solar exposure on shallow reefs due to cyclical El Niño Southern Oscillations (ENSO). Contrary to all the dire predictions, coral reefs usually recover from bleaching. It appears to be nature's way to respond to changing conditions, often caused by natural cycles like ENSO.
ljaques
Didn't get the memo, eh? OK, UCD and Royal Society B, Mark, Bob, and Aksdad have already given you the uptime lowdown on the reality. Creatures either evolve to changing conditions (and conditions have never stopped changing during Earth's lifetime) or they don't. All this extinction fear is far overblown. Ask any real biologist from anywhere -other- than a left-leaning institution like UCD. Chances are, if you look real closely, you'll see that evolution _is_ happening right now in many of these seemingly dying plants and creatures. <shrug>
Rumata
Ocean cannot become acidic by any amount of CO2, because it's salt content that makes it stable basic. Not CO2, but only undersea acidic gas eruptions can cause acidity in ocean water. Hence the acidification by increasing CO2-level is a simple lie. In fact, during ocean warming, the equilibrum solved CO2 level is decreasing, so the ocean became more basic, or "less acidic". The "reasearchers" who talk about the dramatic results of "ocean acidification" never use real oceanic examples, but use only mere speculations, or experiments with artifically acidified salt water. But it does nothing with real ocean chemistry. In Cretaceous Age, when creatures with calcium skeletons populated the oceans, there were 6 times higher atmospheric CO2 level, then today. So it is a joke to say that high aerial CO2 level can harm oceanic life.
Catweazle
More discredited alarmist rubbish.
Robert in Vancouver
If oceans were warming we would see rising sea levels due to polar ice melting. I have lived 100 feet from the Pacific Ocean shoreline for 47 years but haven't seen any change to high or low tide marks on rocks or piers. No change.
PeterAnderson
Can anyone explain to me the process by which CO2 warms the oceans? That just doesn't make sense.