Sea life can't handle the heat of climate change

In recent laboratory studies, PISCO researchers have created the future ocean and found startling impacts to sea life. A new study shows that the smallest life forms – young of sea urchins – can no longer deal with heat when growing in an increasingly acidic ocean. The ocean is more acidic due to increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; predictions are for a warmer and even more acidic ocean. Numerous studies have shown that more acid has great biological impacts. However, few studies have looked at the synergy of environmental factors. This research monitors the physiological response of sea urchin larvae to heat stress, under elevated CO2 conditions. It shows that living in the future ocean reduces the ability of sea urchin larvae to deal with increased temperatures. This is the first study to use genetic testing in order to explore the effects of ocean acidification on a marine species.

O’Donnell, MJ, Hammond LM, Hofmann GE (2008) Predicted impact of ocean acidification on a marine invertebrate: elevated CO2 alters response to thermal stress in sea urchin larvae. Mar Bio. DOI 10.1007/s00227-008-1097-6.

 

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