Ocean acidification and warming

Acidification of the world’s oceans from rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels reduces the availability of carbonate required by some marine organisms to build shells and skeletons, and potentially affects their ability to maintain existing structures.

In cold Antarctic waters, carbonate availability is already very low, and effects on key species have the potential to alter entire ecosystems. Our laboratory based investigations of adult bivalves has shown negative impacts of ocean acidification on various aspects of their functioning and health (with colleague Victoria Metcalf, Lincoln University), and later modelling work revealed potential population-level consequences.

The underside of Antarctic sea ice provides a platform for often high concentrations of ice algae. When this algae settles down to the seafloor below it provides one important primary food resource for benthic organisms (including the bivalves mentioned above). Ocean warming and acidification threaten the success of these different parts of the coastal ecosystem, yet how overall functioning and dynamics may be affected is not known. We have recently begun some in situ  experimental investigations, to help determine potential implications to the benthos, and to linkages between these important ecosystem components.

Further reading

Page last updated: 
4 February 2019
Research subject: AntarcticaOcean acidification