Ocean Acidification Impacts on Sea-Surface Biology, Biogeochemistry and Climate

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: School of Ocean and Earth Science

Abstract

The burning of fossil fuels is releasing vast quantities of extra carbon dioxide to the Earth's atmosphere. Much of this stays in the atmosphere, raising CO2 levels, but much also leaves the atmosphere after a time, either to become sequestered in trees and plants, or else to become absorbed in the oceans. CO2 staying in the atmosphere is a greenhouse gas, causing global warming; CO2 entering the sea makes it more acidic, and the ongoing acidification of seawater is seen in observational records at various sites where time-series data are collected. The changing chemistry of seawater due to ocean acidification is mostly well understood and not subject to debate. What is much less well known is the impact that the changing chemistry will have on marine organisms and ecosystems, on biogeochemical cycling in the sea, and on how the sea interacts with the atmosphere to influence climate. We will look to investigate these questions in terms of how the surface waters of the world's oceans, and the life within, will respond to ocean acidification. Most of what we know about biological impacts, and the source of the current concern about the impact on marine life, comes from experimental studies in which individual organisms (e.g. single corals) or mono-specific populations (e.g. plankton cultures) have been subjected to elevated CO2 (and the associated lower pH) in laboratory experiments. These laboratory experiments have the advantage of being performed under controlled conditions in which everything can be kept constant except for changes to CO2. So if a response is observed, then the cause is clear. However, there are also limitations to laboratory studies. For instance, organisms have no time to adapt evolutionarily, and there is no possibility of shifts in species composition away from more sensitive forms towards more acid-tolerant forms, as might be expected to occur in nature. Another shortcoming is the absence of food-web complexity in most experiments, and therefore the absence of competition, predation, and other interactions that determine the viability of organisms in the natural environment. We seek to advance the study of ocean acidification by collecting more observations of naturally-occurring ecosystems in places where the chemistry of seawater is naturally more acidic, and/or where it naturally holds more carbon,as well as locations which are not so acidic, and/or hold more usual amounts of carbon. By contrasting the two sets of observations, we will gain an improved understanding of how acidification affects organisms living in their natural environment, after assemblage reassortments and evolutionary adaptation have had time to play out. Most of the planned work will be carried out on 3 cruises to places with strong gradients in seawater carbon and pH: to the Arctic Ocean, around the British Isles, and to the Southern Ocean. As well a making observations we will also conduct a large number of experiments, in which we will bring volumes of natural seawater from the ocean surface into containers on the deck of the ship, together with whatever life is contained within, and there subject them to higher CO2 and other stressors. We will monitor the changes that take place to these natural plankton communities (including to biogeochemical and climate-related processes) as the seawater is made more acidic. A major strength of such studies is the inclusion of natural environmental variability and complexity that is difficult or impossible to capture in laboratory experiments. Thus, the responses measured during these experiments on the naturally-occurring community may represent more accurately the future response of the surface ocean to ocean acidification. In order to carry out this experimental/observational work programme we have assembled a strong UK-wide team with an extensive track record of successfully carrying out sea-going scientificresearch projects of this type.

Publications

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Daniels C (2018) A global compilation of coccolithophore calcification rates in Earth System Science Data

 
Description Small phytoplankton in the ocean may be more at risk from ocean acidification than are large phytoplankton.

The shells of Pteropods (swimming marine snails) in the sea are affected by ocean acidification, but they have some capacity to repair them.

Coccolithophores (a type of phytoplankton at the base of marine food chains) seem less affected by ocean acidification than was previously thought.

The production of nitrous oxide (a potent greenhouse gas) in sub-surface waters is inhibited by ocean acidification.
Exploitation Route We have identified some areas needing more research and some reasons for curtailing the CO2 emissions that ultimately produce ocean acidification.
Sectors Environment,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism

URL http://www.surfaceoa.org.uk/
 
Description radio interviews, policy briefings, submission to parliamentary inquiry, outreach events
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Environment
 
Description Evidence submission to parliamentary inquiry
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
Impact The submission was to the Ocean Acidification Inquiry of the Science and Technology Committee of the House of Commons. The submission can be seen here: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/science-and-technology-committee/ocean-acidification/written/45690.html The committee has not just produced its report (it is still taking evidence) but the whole process contributes towards a better environment.
URL https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/science-and-technology-c...
 
Title JR271 DIC/TA bioassay and observational 
Description carbonate chemistry data collected on the first cruise of the UKOA sea-surface consortium (NW European Seas) 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact publications 
 
Title JR271, JR274 CTD data 
Description POC/PON/POP Size fractionated Chlorophyll-a (total, >10 µm) 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact publications 
 
Title JR274 DIC/TA bioassay 
Description Carbonate chemistry data collected during the third cruise of the UKOA sea-surface consortium (Southern Ocean) 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact publications 
 
Title OCEAN ACIDIFICATION IMPACTS ON SEA SURFACE BIOLOGY AND BIOGEOCHEMISTRY IN NORTHWEST EUROPEAN SHELF SEAS: A HIGH-REPLICATED SHIPBOARD APPROACH 
Description Bioassay data 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact publications 
 
Description Annual Ocean and Earth Day 2012 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact National Oceanography Centre, Southampton. Anuual Outreach and public engagement activity. Participation with an information stand, and hands-on activities for children.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Annual Ocean and Earth Day 2013 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact National Oceanography Centre, Southampton. Anuual Outreach and public engagement activity. Participation with an information stand, and hands-on activities for children.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Podcast about the Sea Surface Ocean Acidification UK Project. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Dr Toby Tyrrell, National Oceanography Centre, on Sea Surface Ocean Acidification UK Project - Annual OA Meeting, Exeter 16 - 18 April, 2012. The podcast can be found on the consortium's website http://www.surfaceoa.org.uk/
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Podcast on the Consortium's Arctic cruise 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Ray Leakey, Arctic Research Theme Leader at the Scottish Marine Institute and the leader of the Arctic expedition, on the upcoming sea surface OA Arctic cruise
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Press Release - Scientific Cruise in the Arctic 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact On 1st June 2012, 30 researchers from eight laboratories participated in a scientific cruise on the Norwegian, Barents and Greenland Seas to study the effect of ocean acidification
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Press Release - Scientific Cruise in the Southern Seas 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact On 7th January 2013 a team of thirty scientists, from eight of the UK's top research laboratories, participated in a sceintific cruise to study the effect of ocean acidification in waters near Antarctica
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Press Release - research cruise of the UKOA programme to study the impacts of ocean acidification. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact The cruise was an opportunity to disseminate information and engage with the public. A Press Release sent out with the purpose to inform the scientific community, policy makers and the public.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description Radio Interview - Oceans 'under new threat' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Prof Eric Achterberg and Dr Toby Tyrrell were interviewed by the science correspondent Tom Feilden for the Radio 4 Today Programme feature on ocean acidification
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
 
Description The Big Bang @Bournemouth and Poole 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Primary Audience
Results and Impact A STEM event that ams to inspire young people to study Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Outreach and public engagement activity. Hands-on activities to explain the effects of Ocean Acidification
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Winchester Science Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Anuual Outreach and public engagement activity. Participation with an information stand, and hands-on activities to explain ocean acidification. General audience
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013