02 December 2009

Concealed Love Affair Between Sea Life and CO2

We recently learned that atmospheric CO2 nourishes coral reefs using the lowly sea sponge. Now we are learning that sea creatures can ramp up shell production when exposed to higher levels of dissolved CO2 in sea water.
Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) scientists report that some shell-building creatures -- such as crabs, shrimp and lobsters -- unexpectedly build more shell when exposed to ocean acidification caused by elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2).

Because excess CO2 dissolves in the ocean -- causing it to "acidify" -- researchers have been concerned about the ability of certain organisms to maintain the strength of their shells. Carbon dioxide is known to trigger a process that reduces the abundance of carbonate ions in seawater -- one of the primary materials that marine organisms use to build their calcium carbonate shells and skeletons....

....But in a study published in the Dec. 1 issue of Geology, a team led by former WHOI postdoctoral researcher Justin B. Ries found that seven of the 18 shelled species they observed actually built more shell when exposed to varying levels of increased acidification. This may be because the total amount of dissolved inorganic carbon available to them is actually increased when the ocean becomes more acidic, even though the concentration of carbonate ions is decreased. _SD
Oceans have been exposed to much higher levels of CO2 in the past than humans could possibly produce from fossil fuels. Ocean life loves CO2. Photosynthetic algae blossoms in the presence of higher CO2, providing fodder for the rest of the ocean's food chain. As mentioned above, sea sponges convert half their weight in CO2 per day to nutrient-rich excretia -- feeding much of the rest of the coral reef in the process. And now that scientists are finally admitting that higher dissolved levels of CO2 actually drive formation of sea shell in many sea creatures, the public no longer has an excuse for its absurd "ocean acidification mania and panic!".

The oceans are not being acidified. They are embracing the CO2 -- begging for as much as they can get! -- and turning it into sea life.

See WattsUpWithThat!!?? for more.

More detail on ocean carbon chemistry (via comments in WUWT)

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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