Climate change is impacting the ocean in a variety of ways and one of the most impactful is increase of ocean acidification. As acidification increases, scientists are revealing more and more of the damage the changing climate is causing to the ocean.
As first reported in Frontiers in Marine Science, researchers discovered that ocean acidification eats away at the shells of sea snails. The team conducted their research at a marine volcanic seep off the coast of Japan where CO2 bubbles out of volcanic vents, lowering ocean pH levels. The pH levels seen at the volcano are similar to what will be seen in the future due to climate change.
Although not in a laboratory, the environment provided the researchers a perfect opportunity to see the impact that ocean acidification will have.
Using computed tomography (CT) scanning, scientists measured the thickness, density, and structure of the shells. They found that those near the volcanic seeps had half the shell thickness of those further away and their lengths were reduced from 178 millimeters to 112 millimeters, exposing body tissue and causing the shell to dissolve in some cases.
“Ocean acidification is a clear threat to marine life, acting as a stressor for many marine animals,” said study author Ben Harvey, from the University of Tsukuba, in a statement. “Here we found that the ability of the triton shells to produce and maintain their shells was hindered by ocean acidification, with the corrosive seawater making them smoother, thinner, and less dense.”
“The extensive dissolution of their shells has profound consequences for calcified animals into the future as it is not something they can biologically control, suggesting that some calcified species might be unable to adapt to the acidified seawater if carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise unchecked,” said Harvey.
As the impact of climate change only increases, we expect to see continued studies revealing the devastating damage caused by man’s decision to burn carbon. To limit the damage done, it will be up to the people to elect officials that will fight climate change and ensure they follow up with their actions.