The chemistry of the ocean is changing. Most climate change discussion focuses on the warmth of the air, but around one-quarter of the carbon dioxide we release into the atmosphere dissolves into the ocean. Dissolved carbon dioxide makes seawater more acidic—a process called ocean acidification—and its effects have already been observed: the shells of sea butterflies, also known as pteropods, have begun dissolving in the Antarctic.
Tiny sea butterflies are related to snails, but use their muscular foot to swim in the water instead of creep along a surface. Many species have thin, hard shells made of calcium carbonate that are especially sensitive to changes in the ocean’s acidity. Their sensitivity and cosmopolitan nature make them an alluring study group for scientists who want to better understand how acidification will affect ocean organisms. But some pteropod species are proving to do just fine in more acidic water, while others have shells that dissolve quickly. So why do some species perish while others thrive?
Les zoologistes ont eu la main heureuse cette année… Par hasard, en dénichant à 7.000 m de profondeur un crustacé inconnu de 28 cm. Et par leur travail et leur passion au cours de l’expédition Tara Oceans, qui a terminé son périple de deux ans et demi autour du monde. Les nouvelles techniques d’analyse ADN ont fait découvrir le gigantesque écosystème bactérien sous le fond de l’océan… mais aussi des requins.
Les zoologistes ont eu la main heureuse cette année… Par hasard, en dénichant à 7.000 m de profondeur un crustacé inconnu de 28 cm.
In a Swedish fjord, European researchers are conducting an ambitious experiment aimed at better understanding how ocean acidification will affect marine life. Ultimately, these scientists hope to determine which species might win and which might lose in a more acidic ocean.
The sea urchin is a doughty animal that can withstand cold and turbulent seas, eat almost anything, and defend itself from many predators — though not human gourmands — with its pincushion of tough spines. It’s one of the creatures that lured biologists to establish one of the world’s first marine research stations in 1877 at Kristineberg on Sweden’s west coast, for the sheltered Gullmar Fjord there is characterized by deep, cold waters that support a wide array of sea life.
That water is still being piped into laboratories to nourish aquariums filled with urchins, fish, sea stars, and other local marine fauna. But today most of the ongoing experiments in Kristineberg revolve around what biologists have taken to calling “the other CO2 problem” — the ways in which humanity’s giant, ongoing experiment in altering the world’s atmosphere is causing the oceans to become more acidic. Even the pristine-looking Gullmar Fjord — with its granite shores lined with spruce and pine trees, clear waters, and teeming populations of eiders, gulls, and many fish species — isn’t immune to that global change.
n April 2010, The Santa Barbara Independentpublished an in-depth cover story on ocean acidification, becoming one of the first general interest publications to explain how our planet’s 200-year addiction to burning fossil fuels is dramatically increasing the toxicity of the seas. Nearly three years later, despite much more media attention, lots of government funding, and repeated warnings from scientists, the everyday earthling still has very little clue how much trouble we are almost certain to face in our lifetimes when the oceans’ rising acidity decimates the marine system as we know it, putting the supply of seafood at risk, among other global impacts.
But the public may be starting to pay attention, thanks to our collective love for oysters, as the popular slurpable shellfish is emerging as the canary in the acidification coal mine. “Oysters are the first things being affected that have a spokesman for them,” said Bill Dewey, who will speak at the Edible Institute this weekend and had the BBC and USA Today coming to visit his farm last week. “The science is irrefutable. Hopefully people start paying more attention.”
Contrary to conventional wisdom, an overemphasis on cleanliness may be hindering the benefits of biodiversity in our homes.
We live at the crossroads of three global megatrends, three barreling and intertwined juggernauts of modernity. The first is the massive migration of humanity to the world’s cities. By 2050, two-thirds of all humans on Earth will live in urban areas....
The second is the loss of biodiversity. Species are disappearing, both from the places where we live and from the earth as a whole...
And then there’s the third trend—the one that, at first glance, seems not to belong with the others. The prevalence of allergies and chronic inflammatory diseases among urban populations in developed countries has skyrocketed in recent years....