Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Epoca: ocean acidification and its impact on ecosystems

27.05.2008
Emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) through human activities have a well known impact on the Earth's climate. What is not so well known is that the absorption of this CO2 by the oceans is causing inexorable acidification of sea water.

But what impact is this phenomenon having on marine organisms and ecosystems? This is a question to which researchers have few answers as yet. That is why the European Union has recently given its support to EPOCA, the European Project on Ocean Acidification, which will be launched in Nice (France) on 10 June 2008.

EPOCA's goal is to document ocean acidification, investigate its impact on biological processes, predict its consequences over the next 100 years, and advise policy-makers on potential thresholds or tipping points that should not be exceeded. The project is coordinated by Jean-Pierre Gattuso, a CNRS researcher at the Oceanography Laboratory at Villefranche-sur-mer (1), and brings together a consortium of 27 partners, including CNRS and the French Atomic Energy Agency (CEA), from 9 countries. Many of the leading oceanographic institutions across Europe and more than 100 permanent scientists are involved. The budget is EUR16.5 million over 4 years, including EUR6.5 million from the European Commission. *

Over 71% of the Earth's surface is covered by the oceans, which are home to an incredibly diverse flora and fauna. They play a key role in regulating the climate and levels of carbon dioxide (CO2), one of the main greenhouse gases. Over the last 200 years (since the beginning of the industrial revolution), the oceans have absorbed about one third of the carbon dioxide produced by human activities, a total of 120 billion tons. Without this absorption, the amount of CO2 present in the atmosphere and its effects on the climate would undoubtedly be far greater.

In fact, over 25 million tons of CO2 dissolve in seawater every day. However, the oceans do not escape unscathed. When CO2 dissolves in sea water, it causes the formation of carbonic acid, which leads to a fall in pH (the pH scale is used to measure acidity (2)). This change is called "ocean acidification" and is happening at a rate that has not been experienced probably for the last 20 million years.

The effects of this huge input of CO2 into the oceans only began to be studied in the late 1990s (3) and are still poorly understood. One of the most likely consequences will be slower growth of organisms with calcareous skeletons, such as corals, mollusks, algae, etc (4). Obtaining more information about ocean acidification is a major environmental priority because of the threat it poses to certain species and ecosystems.

EPOCA should help us to understand the effects of the acidification of sea water as well as its impact on marine organisms and ecosystems. More specifically, the project has four goals:

* document the changes in ocean chemistry and biogeography across space and time. Paleo-reconstruction methods will be used on several natural/biological archives, including foraminifera and deep-sea corals, to determine past variability in ocean chemistry and to tie these to present-day chemical and biological observations.

* determine the sensitivity of marine organisms, communities and ecosystems to ocean acidification. Molecular to biochemical, physiological and ecological approaches will be combined with laboratory and field-based perturbation experiments to quantify biological responses to ocean acidification, assess the potential for adaptation, and determine the consequences for biogeochemical cycling. Laboratory experiments will focus on key organisms selected on the basis of their ecological, biogeochemical or socio-economic importance. Field studies will be carried out in systems (areas/regions) deemed most sensitive to ocean acidification.

* integrate results on the impact of ocean acidification on marine ecosystems in biogeochemical, sediment, and coupled ocean-climate models to better understand and predict the responses of the Earth system to ocean acidification. Special attention will be paid to the potential feedbacks of the physiological changes in the carbon, nitrogen, sulfur and iron cycles * assess uncertainties, risks and thresholds ("tipping points") related to ocean acidification at scales ranging from sub-cellular to ecosystem and local to global. It will also assess the decrease in CO2 emissions required to avoid these thresholds and describe the change and the subsequent risk to the marine environment and Earth system, should these emissions be exceeded.

(1) LOV, a component of the Observatoire océanologique de Villefranche-sur-Mer, CNRS / Université Pierre et Marie Curie-Paris VI

(2) The lower the pH of a solution, the higher is its acidity.

(3) This area of research has been receiving backing at national level for several years through INSU's project-based actions.

(4) See the press release "Moules et huîtres menacées par l'acidification des océans" ('Mussels and oysters endangered by the acidification of the oceans')

Julien Guillaume | alfa
Further information:
http://www.cnrs-dir.fr
http://www2.cnrs.fr/en/821
http://epoca-project.eu/

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Listening in: Acoustic monitoring devices detect illegal hunting and logging
14.12.2017 | Gesellschaft für Ökologie e.V.

nachricht How fires are changing the tundra’s face
12.12.2017 | Gesellschaft für Ökologie e.V.

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Plasmonic biosensors enable development of new easy-to-use health tests

14.12.2017 | Health and Medicine

New type of smart windows use liquid to switch from clear to reflective

14.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

BigH1 -- The key histone for male fertility

14.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>