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Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Unexpected result: Ocean acidification can also promote shell formation

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Posted: 27 Jan 2017 08:29 AM PST  see full article here

More carbon dioxide in the air also acidifies the oceans. It seemed to be the logical conclusion that shellfish and corals will suffer, because chalk formation becomes more difficult in more acidic seawater. But now a group of scientists discovered to their own surprise that some tiny unicellular shellfish (foraminifera) make better shells in an acidic environment. This is a completely new insight….

…”If the classic hypothesis holds and more carbon dioxide leads to less lime production, the oceans can continue to take up CO2 from the atmosphere. But what if the majority of the organisms can regulate the chemical form of their inorganic carbon by biochemical processes like our foraminifers did, and continue to form lime structures in a more acidic ocean? Over time, the concentration of dissolved carbon dioxide in the oceans may start to increase. Consequently, the ability of the oceans to take up a large part of the carbon dioxide in the air may start to decrease. This would mean that more carbon dioxide would remain in the air, leading to a more rapid warming of our planet.”

Takashi Toyofuku, Miki Y. Matsuo, Lennart Jan de Nooijer, Yukiko Nagai, Sachiko Kawada, Kazuhiko Fujita, Gert-Jan Reichart, Hidetaka Nomaki, Masashi Tsuchiya, Hide Sakaguchi, Hiroshi Kitazato. Proton pumping accompanies calcification in foraminifera. Nature Communications, 2017; 8: 14145 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms14145

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