Impacts of ocean acidification on key benthic ecosystems, communities, habitats, species and life cycles

Lead Research Organisation: Marine Biological Association
Department Name: Marine Biology

Abstract

The average acidity (pH) of the world's oceans has been stable for the last 25 million years. However, the oceans are now absorbing so much man made CO2 from the atmosphere that measurable changes in seawater pH and carbonate chemistry can be seen. It is predicted that this could affect the basic biological functions of many marine organisms. This in turn could have implications for the survival of populations and communities, as well as the maintenance of biodiversity and ecosystem function. In the seas around the UK, the habitats that make up the seafloor, along with the animals associated with them, play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy and productive marine ecosystem. This is important considering 40% of the world's population lives within 100 km of the coast and many of these people depend on coastal systems for food, economic prosperity and well-being. Given that coastal habitats also harbour incredibly high levels of biodiversity, any environmental change that affects these important ecosystems could have substantial environmental and economical impacts. During several recent international meetings scientific experts have concluded that new research is urgently needed. In particular we need long-term studies that determine: which organisms are likely to be tolerant to high CO2 and which are vulnerable; whether organisms will have time to adapt or acclimatise to this rapid environmental change; and how the interactions between individuals that determine ecosystem structure will be affected. This current lack of understanding is a major problem as ocean acidification is a rapidly evolving management issue and, with an insufficient knowledge base, policy makers and managers are struggling to formulate effective strategies to sustain and protect the marine environment in the face of ocean acidification. This consortium brings together 25 key researchers from 12 UK organisations to begin to provide the knowledge and understanding so desperately needed. These researchers share a unified vision to quantify, predict and communicate the impact of ocean acidification on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in coastal habitats. They will use laboratory experiments to determine the ways in which ocean acidification will change key physiological processes, organism behaviour, animal interactions, biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. The understanding gained will be used to build and run conceptual, statistical and numerical models which will predict the impact of future ocean pH scenarios on the biodiversity and function of coastal ecosystems. The consortium will also act as a focal point for UK ocean acidification research promoting communication between many different interested parties; UK and international scientists, policy makers, environmental managers, fisherman, conservationists, the media, students and the general public.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Rocky intertidal gastropods show a greater response to warming seawater than more acidic seawater conditions. When exposed to both stressful conditions simultaneously, reproductive cycles take longer to complete in warmer, acidic water than in current seawater conditions. Feeding is altered in more acidic conditions.
Exploitation Route Understanding the relative impacts of climate change and ocean acidification will allow more appropriate management and conservation decisions to be made by UK and EU policymakers and stakeholders.
Sectors Environment

URL http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gcb.12675/abstract;jsessionid=FB6066600A7F170BE3583A7FB3773D83.f01t03?deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=&userIsAuthenticated=false
 
Description The findings from the mesocosm experiment have been used to determine the relative impacts of temperature and changes to ocean pH on biological and physiological processes of marine invertebrates. These have been applied to future predictions of climate change and published in the peer review literature.
First Year Of Impact 2010
Sector Environment
Impact Types Societal

 
Description MCCIP Annual Report Card
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
 
Title Multiple stressor mesocosm 
Description Two new state-of-the-art marine mesocosm systems with controlled temperature, pH and light facilities have been built by Nova Mieszkowska at the MBA as part of the grant funded research activities. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Novel, long-term 12 month multiple stressor experiments on marine invertebrates have been run for the first time using the new system and associated methodologies. 
 
Description EU Cost Action: MARCONS workshop, Haifa, March 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A 5-day EU-funded workshop in Haifa Israel on the idea of climate refugia - places where impacts of climate may be least and where conservation efforts may be more likely to achieve significant impact. The workshop resulted in an opinion piece in Nature and an ongoing manuscript in preparation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-05869-5
 
Description Invited Seminar Bristol University 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Guest seminar given to the staff and students in the Department of Earth Sciences, with questions and discussions afterwards.

New joint student projects at Masters and PhD level written and submitted for funding.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Invited Seminar Exeter University 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Guest seminar to disseminate the research outputs from the grant funded mesocosm experiments and related field studies.

Several researchers initiated contact to discuss the findings and potential new collaborations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Invited Seminar National Oceanography Centre Liverpool 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Questions and discussion following my seminar.

New collaborative proposal written with a researcher present at my seminar.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Invited Seminar Newcastle University 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Post-seminar discussion and Q&A session

Further requests for reprints and information on my research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Public talk on climate change in the ocean to Glasgow Probus - January 2019. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This was a hour-long talk on the effects of climate change to a group of retired professional and business people from the Glasgow area, including ex academics. Insightful and interesting questions resulted in the following discussion.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://kelvinprobus.org/