How much dissolved acid can Arctic sealife survive?
A scientific expedition to check out the impact of more acidic waters on marine life is setting off tomorrow (June 1st 2012).
Researchers from the LWEC-accredited UK Ocean Acidification Research Programme will be collecting samples of Arctic seawater from as far North as ice will allow. This is because Polar seas are expected to be especially sensitive to the effects of ocean acidification, since more carbon dioxide dissolves in colder water. They are therefore good early indicators of how the marine environment will respond to a world which produces more and more carbon dioxide emissions. Our oceans are currently absorbing excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere with potentially deadly consequences for sensitive ecosystems.
Seawater in the Arctic is particularly sensitive to chemicals so could become corrosive more rapidly. This is particularly bad news for marine plankton and other organisms that use calcium carbonate for their shells or skeletons.
During the expedition, the scientists will study the impact of the changing chemistry on marine organisms and ecosystems, the cycling of carbon and nutrients in the sea and how the sea interacts with the atmosphere to influence climate.
Dr Ray Leakey, Arctic Research Theme Leader at the Scottish Association from Marine Science (SAMS) and the leader of the current expedition says,
“Few studies have investigated the effects of ocean acidification on the marine food web of the remote Arctic seas, and most have focused on laboratory cultures or natural communities from a limited number of relatively accessible coastal locations. By contrast our expedition will be by ship in both ice-covered and ice-free oceanic waters far from land. This will allow us to undertake the most comprehensive study to date of the ways in which the plants and animals living in the surface waters of the Arctic ocean respond to acidification.”
The expedition, aboard the RRS James Clark Ross,will end on 4th July in Reykjavik, Iceland and members of the team will be blogging about their progress at www.arcticoacruise.org/?cat=1.
The UK Ocean Acidification Research Programme (UKOA) is funded by LWEC partners, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).