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Earth Science

Antarctic Marine Wildlife Is Under Threat From Ocean Acidification, Study Finds 180

Posted by samzenpus
from the water-to-vinegar dept.
A study has found that a decreased pH level in the antarctic is damaging the shells of native wildlife. "Marine snails in seas around Antarctica are being affected by ocean acidification, scientists have found. An international team of researchers found that the snails' shells are being corroded. Experts says the findings are significant for predicting the future impact of ocean acidification on marine life. The results of the study are published in the journal Nature Geoscience (abstract). The marine snails, called "pteropods", are an important link in the oceanic food chain as well as a good indicator of ecosystem health. 'They are a major grazer of phytoplankton and... a key prey item of a number of higher predators - larger plankton, fish, seabirds, whales,' said Dr Geraint Tarling, Head of Ocean Ecosystems at the British Antarctic Survey and co-author of the report."
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Antarctic Marine Wildlife Is Under Threat From Ocean Acidification, Study Finds

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  • chem 101 (Score:5, Informative)

    by Tastecicles (1153671) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @06:22PM (#42089419)

    CO2(aq) + H2O(l) H+(aq) + HCO3–(aq) [distilled water reaction]

    2NaOH(aq) + CO2(g) Na2CO3(aq) + H2O(l) [sodium hydroxide reaction]

    Explanatory:
    Carbon dioxide reacts with water at standard temperature and pressure to form a weak acid and hydrogen ions (both in solution), adjusting pH *at saturation* from about 7.6-6.0. That it is known yet underreported that the world's oceans are the carbon sink to beat all others, puts lie to the CO2 problem and a simple classroom experiment with distilled water, a straw, sodium hydroxide solution and phenol indicator proves this.

    Incidentally, for the carbon sink to fail would require the oceans to be heated to just below boiling. Not likely to happen yet for around 5 billion years.

  • Re:chem 101 (Score:5, Informative)

    by Tastecicles (1153671) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @06:25PM (#42089437)

    slashdot please fix the unicode. This is getting annoying.

    here is the experiment [nuffieldfoundation.org]

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @07:10PM (#42089625) Journal
    Here is a summary of the paper, as I understand it:

    1)Deep ocean antarctic water is corrosive to pteropod shells (for various reasons, including water pressure, composition of the water, etc).
    2)Normally, from time to time there are upwells of the deeper water, which theoretically can cause pteropod shells to corrode.
    3)These scientists developed a technique to observe corrosion in the shells, and observed that at around 200m, the shells are indeed corroded.
    4)If ocean acidification increases, then it will cause more corrosion.

    If ocean acidification increases, it could cause problems for wildlife. There's nothing particularly controversial here.
  • Chem 102 (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 25, 2012 @07:16PM (#42089653)

    Too bad you apparently stopped at chem 101. In Chem 102 one might learn that reactions are not instantaneous.

    Have you ever tried to dissolve atmospheric carbon dioxide in water? If so, you will note that the rate of dissolution is not very high.

    As a result, though the ocean is fully capable of dissolving the CO2 produced by burning of fossil fuels, it will do so very slowly -- over a multiple-century timescale. (And it will disrupt marine ecosystems in doing so.) Incidentally, this process is already incorporated into all climate models.

    To make the CO2 dissolve faster, you could use a stirring system to incorporate gas into the bulk liquid and to distribute the bicarbonate evenly. Good luck finding one big enough to stir the ocean.

    Alternatively, you could use a strong base, like hydroxide, to deprotonate bicarbonate and drive the process to completion. Unfortunately, strong bases are not available as raw materials. Their production results in the release of large amounts of acidic chemicals like chlorine, which must be disposed of or else they will acidify the ocean and cancel out the effect of all the hydroxide.

  • by Jawnn (445279) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @08:01PM (#42089837)
    If you consider their decision to not waste time (ours and theirs) with nonsense like giving air to "opposing viewpoints" as "alarmist", I suppose we could say that's the case. Most of us, however, don't consider the rantings of superstitious fools (or those of a particular political ax to grind) as "opposing viewpoints" in the arena of science. There are rules to that game, and "...because the Bible says..." does not qualify as "research". So, no. Your attempt to divert the discussion into a questioning of the BBC's credibility fails, this time. Nice try. Thanks for playing.
  • Re:Natural Selection (Score:5, Informative)

    by Genda (560240) <mariet@ g o t . n et> on Sunday November 25, 2012 @08:13PM (#42089871) Journal

    Okay, lets put the dots really close together for you. No, the oceans acidity doesn't change all the time. That last time it changed like this the planet changed from a snowball into a sauna bath and it followed perhaps the largest extinction indecent in the planet's history (read up on the snowball earth.) This is not a minor change. This isn't a "Okay so we lose the parrotfish.. who the 'F' cares about parrotfish?" This is a global change in ocean chemistry attacking one of the primary constituents of zooplankton.

    I'm guessing you're not a biologist, so let me give you an example. If something came along and wiped out all the grass. You're immediate response would be big whoop, no more mowing. The problem is that all grains are grasses. So everything that eats grass or grain get's impacted immediately. No more bread, or rice, or oats or barely or corn or millet (you want to think about what proportion of the human diet is grain based, its the only thing keeping large parts of the third world alive.) So no more milk. No more beef. In fact Cows, Pigs, Chickens, Turkeys, Horses, Deer, basically every grass eating animal, mammals including rodents at the bottom of the food chain, birds, insects... all gone, see yah, then the predators that eat them... like you and me... gone, gone, gone. Can you see the implications now. No Grass BAD!!!

    So, animals with shells all have a larval stages and are at the bottom of the oceans food chain. Anything that kills them is EQUALLY BAD for all the critters up the food chain (again that includes us human beings.) The sudden loss of zooplankton causes a subsequent super bloom in phytoplakton (also a potentially bad thing all by itself.) This is not some far off maybe someday event. Coral Reef are bleaching this very moment as I write (one of the largest and more diverse ecosystems on the planet responsible for more kinds of fish, crustaceans, cephalopods, you name it) is on the verge of catastrophic collapse. You can't geoengineer extinct. Gone is gone. You think the cost of cutting back on burning carbon is expensive, figure out how much it'll cost replace the services that nature provides for free with manmade alternatives. You can't unscramble an egg. You can't fix this once you're satisfied its broken, because you'll be in a moving train barreling down the tracks and the only thing you'll be able to do is gird yourself for the crash.

    Its all tied together. Its all based on Carbon. There's too much where it doesn't belong and now its beginning to be a real problem. Soon it will be a problem for which human beings will be unable to address. Why would anybody with the vaguest hint of sanity let something get so bad. Sorry, its inconvenient. Expensive. Even hurtful to developing people, who always take the brunt of what fails in the world. Simply letting it get worse will ensure the impact on those same people will be nothing less than devastating. Playing Russian Roulette with the future of humanity is far more irresponsible than acting now to reduce carbon, improve efficiency, develop alternative energy sources, and come up with new technologies to better sequester the byproducts of our civilization. Wake up, the coffee is burning! Right Now.

    I don't know what planet you live on, but the one I live on is tangled up in bureaucrats and a collapsing middle class. Think for a moment. We haven't been on the moon in nearly 45 years. You think we can put enough people on Mars to make a difference if we break our ecosystem? By when? The numbers are all in. The hottest years in history all this decade. The ocean is rising. The oceans chemistry it getting dangerously unbalanced. Please read about the rise of slim. Lakes dying and changing to Hydrogen Sulfide cycles below a 100 feet. The list is huge, but its all point at the inescapable certainty than man is toxic and poisoning his mater. I agree that a human diaspora to the stars is the answer, but destroying the ecosystem before you can leave is just stupid.

  • by bmo (77928) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @08:35PM (#42089961)

    >While there are any number of support teams down there along with the formal researchers, both on the ice and in the water, there aren't any gift shops.

    You would be wrong about this too.

    http://www.ukaht.org/peninsula/port-lockroy [ukaht.org]

    "The buildings were renovated in 1996 by a team from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and since then opened to visitors during the Antarctic summer. See more about the restoration. This is made possible only by the proceeds of the small gift shop which all go towards renovation of historic sites in Antarctica. "

    http://www.yogoyo.com/antarctica-travel-guide/palmer-station-photos/gift-shop-palmer-station-antarctica.htm [yogoyo.com]

    A photo of a Ukrainian gift shop in Antarctica:

    http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/p/m/1f4d46/ [virtualtourist.com]

    There are other links, but those were some of the top few.

    --
    BMO

  • by WOOFYGOOFY (1334993) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @10:00PM (#42090385)
    Remember, these sites and other social media sites are patrolled by agents paid by the oil and gas industry to cast aspersion on anything and everything having to do with global warming. I think we just met one. The post is so malignant, it's worth unpacking in detail.

    Remember, this is the BBC, who took a corporate decision in 2006 to pursue an alarmist reporting stance.

    Technique one - ad homineum attack on the messenger. A study was done. That study was reported. Attempt to discredit the study by attacking the credibility of the entity doing the reporting. Instead considering the worth of the study itself, the hope is the integrity of the study will be smeared by smearing the entity that reported it.

    Technique two- change the topic. We were talking about the effect of global warming on the oceanic food web , now we're going to start talking instead about the BBC and whether they're biased or not.

    The original paper says that this is only a pilot study, and that it cannot definitely point to any disadvantage to the animals - 'they MAY suffer increased predation' is a typical comment

    Technique three, misrepresent normal and appropriate scientific qualification of results as a license to dismiss the study's findings. The fact is, no single study is definitive. That's normal science. The certainty increases as each successive study is confirmed, amplified, and new studies support the same conclusions using different approaches. Each study considered individually comes with caveats; the picture of reality emerges from an aggregation of such studies. This is called "normal science" and it's how science gets to truth. This study fits into that framework.

    Technique four- decontextualize the study from the larger supporting body of related evidence. Closely related to technique three above, the mass of evidence pointing to the devastating effects of oceanic acidification on the food web is incontrovertible. This study reinforces and elaborates this finding with new evidence. Seen in its proper context, this study's relevance increases because its findings are congruent with other studies showing the same disturbing trend- acidification of the oceans is assaulting the food web in the ocean.

    The smallest part of the omitted scientific context:

    http://www.ocean-acidification.net/FAQeco.html [ocean-acidification.net]

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/dec/10/ocean-acidification-epoca [guardian.co.uk]

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/19/opinion/acid-test-for-oceans-and-marine-life.html?_r=0 [nytimes.com]

    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/03/02/436193/science-ocean-acidifying-so-fast-it-threatens-humanity-ability-to-feed-itself/ [thinkprogress.org]

    http://oceana.org/en/our-work/climate-energy/ocean-acidification/learn-act/effects-of-ocean-acidification-on-marine-species-ecosystems [oceana.org]

    http://articles.latimes.com/2012/oct/06/local/la-me-acidic-oceans-20121007 [latimes.com]

    http://www.examiner.com/article/lethal-carbon-dioxide-and-ocean-acidification-threaten-marine-life [examiner.com]

  • Re:Natural Selection (Score:4, Informative)

    by Genda (560240) <mariet@ g o t . n et> on Monday November 26, 2012 @12:30AM (#42091053) Journal

    And you're not getting it. This isn't a slow change. Natural changes occur over millions of years, This has precipitated in just a few human generations. It's looking more and more like an exponential change, because multiple feedbacks are beginning to tilt. Melting permafrost releasing huge amounts of methane and CO2, the continued slash and burn of the tropical forests around the world. All these sinks are breaking at the same time because we failed to address the problem and so now instead of a linear progress of the atmospheric carbon we planned for, we're beginning to see what may in fact be very nonlinear results. Unpredictable results which in a sentence mean results for which we will be unable to plan. The rate of change that "A Natural System" can happily accommodate is about 500 to 5,000 times slower than the rate we're inducing currently. You are perfectly correct that life will succeed and evolve its way out of any mess we make. But first virtually everything dies. Life will go on, it just won't be with anything resembling a human being in the neighborhood.

    The only sudden changes we need to bring are the changes surrounding the use of our planet as a toilet for our industry. That should be sudden, and it should begin some time yesterday. Its becoming alarmingly clear that we've already missed the boat to get out of this without taking a beating. Now the outlooks grow increasingly dismal. However, it still doesn't have to be fatal. We are going to lose virtually all the iconic animals you're familiar with in this century. All the big animals of Africa (Elephants, Lions, Cheetahs, Giraffes, Hippo...) and Asia... gone. Virtually all of the higher primates, done. Whales, dolphins, fish, and crustaceans are currently a coin toss, but the prospects are pretty grim. Nothing has happened at this level in millions of years and we are busy cutting the floor out from beneath our own feet. There's an old saying. When you find yourself at the bottom of a deep hole, STOP DIGGING.

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