Two Types of Science, One Study of Ocean Acidification

by Weronika Konwent

Ocean acidification is predicted to increase as global warming accelerates, affecting marine habitats and especially coastal areas experiencing episodic upwelling, such as the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem (CCLME). Hofmann et al. (2014) are studying this particular habitat due to its wide variety of conditions and its particular susceptibility to rapid environmental change, To do this, they are using data collected by the Ocean Margin Ecosystems Group for Acidification Studies (OMEGAS) to pair oceanographic and biological data to create a more thorough understanding of genetic variability within key species populations, and how this can affect adaptation to the conditions caused by climate change. Using the biological data to measure responses of sea creatures to oceanographic factors that are affected by climate change, Hofman et al (2014) hope to plot the future survival of CCLME species.

Measurements of pH, salinity, and temperature, along with others, are taken as oceanographic data to describe the abiotic conditions of the habitat. The benefit of the CCLME is that it spans a large distribution of these conditions, which allows researchers to approximate change in time as change in space. Concurrently, biological data such as growth rate, calcification, and physiology, and genetic data are used to measure organisms’ responses to these varying conditions. The specific organisms tested are key species of calcifying benthic marine invertebrates. By researching the responses of these organisms, researchers hope to gain a better understanding of the genetic variability within populations, and how this might help or hinder species as global warming causes ocean acidification. This particular method of investigation has several benefits. It tests the possible location of refuge sites that are likely to serve as safety reserves against ocean acidification, is economical for scientists to employ, and allows the study of sprawling ecosystems. In this particular study, it was found that benthic marine invertebrates have a high resilience to such changing conditions, and that local adaptation can occur through space and presumably time, although it is not completely certain whether organism response can be attributed solely to the effects of ocean acidification. Nonetheless, OMEGAS has begun to use this method to test for acclimation and local adaptation in such sites globally, and to predict the effects of ocean acidification on a diverse variety of species. Such knowledge can then be used in the creation of marine reserves, or to communicate with local policy makers and scientists, which can have far reaching and positive effects.

Hofmann, G. E., Evans, T. G., Kelly, M. W., et al. 2014. Exploring local adaptation and the ocean acidification seascape – studies in the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem. Biogeosciences, 11, 1053-1064.


TWEET: Both #oceanographic and #biological components are important for forecasting #oceanacidification


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