Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

Ocean acids altering organisms

Spirorbid feeding Spirorbid feeding Leyre Vilota-Nieva
28 Jan
2015
Marine organisms that cost the maritime industry $22billion a year are set to change if ocean acidification continues

Tiny marine organisms known as the ‘biofouling communities’ are set to change as the world’s oceans become more acidic, according to a new study from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), the Centro de Ciências do Mar and the University of Cambridge.

Around $15billion is spent each year cleaning desalination and power plants. Biofouling communities form a rough surface on ships that increases drag. The cleaning process can cost as much as $7billion a year worldwide.

‘These organisms are not just fouling ships. They are a problem for the aquaculture industry, power stations, and desalination plants,’ says Professor Lloyd Peck, who led the study for the BAS. ‘Biofouling communities are also a problem for alternative energy sources like wave power,’ he adds.

The BAS study attempted to find out what was going to happen to biofouling communities in the real world and looked at a pH change in the oceans that might happen in fifty–sixty year’s time, as increased CO2 levels lead to a more acidic ocean. The experiment involved over 10,000 animals from the highly productive Ria Formosa Lagoon system in Algarve, Portugal. Communities were allowed to colonise hard surfaces in six aquarium tanks. In half the tanks, the seawater had the normal acidity for the lagoon (pH 7.9) and the other half were set at an increased acidity of pH 7.7.

Previous studies have looked at individual species and how their physiology has been affected by changes in pH levels. The BAS study differed in looking at five or six species as a community. Spirorbid worms did worst in the new conditions. ‘We had a decrease from Spirorbids making up 90 per cent down to only being 40 per cent of the communities,’ says Peck. This is good news for industries plagued by biofouling, as the Spirorbid is among the most damaging of the biofouling organisms.

‘Animals like sponges and sea squirts do much better. This could be because the worms do worse giving these organisms a better chance, or it could be these organisms just do better in more acidic conditions. We don’t know which yet,’ says Peck.

What is certain is that these marine communities and ecosystems will be different in the future.

Related items

Subscribe and Save!

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

Sign up for our weekly newsletter today and get a FREE eBook collection!

geo line break v3

University of Winchester

geo line break v3

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Derby

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...

Energy

A project in Orkney is converting excess wind energy into…

Geophoto

Mountains provide a dramatic sight at the best of times,…

Wildlife

A surge in reports of dead hares has resulted in…

Oceans

Four scientists have banded together to make the case against the farming of octopuses, arguing…

Climate

As planetary oil consumption hits the 100-million-barrel mark Marco Magrini…

Oceans

A ship that ran aground early in February has been…

Wildlife

Two whale populations on either side of the African continent…

Geophoto

March traditionally heralds the beginning of spring, a time of…

Wildlife

An innovative project to utilise Laos’ elephant experts in service…

Polar

Despite common belief that Antarctica is vastly uninhabited, humans are…

Wildlife

Javan rhinos survived the recent Krakatoa tsunami, but the species…

Energy

As the world turns away from fossil fuels, one question…

Geophoto

The winners of the Outdoor Photographer of the Year 2018…

Climate

New legislation in Florida aims to solve various environmental issues,…

Polar

The world’s magnetic model is getting an early update, as…

Climate

Marco Magrini looks at the financial pressures spilling out into the…

Geophoto

Few sights are more dramatic than a star-filled sky at…

Polar

A region of Antarctica previously known for relative stability is…

Tectonics

Everything we thought we knew about eruptions could be wrong

Oceans

Sea levels are rising across the globe, but along the…