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article imageTiny seashells show extent of climate change

By Tim Sandle     May 28, 2017 in Science
Future climate change conditions lead to additional to stress marine creatures, and this provides a means for tracking the effects of climate change. The research further shows how changes can throw off the ocean carbon balance.
Studies by University of California - Davis scientists using tiny, shelled organisms in the ocean indicate that big changes to the global carbon cycle are underway. The research provides a novel means of assessing climate change by using tiny sea creatures. The creatures in question are the foraminifera. These are are single-celled protists with shells. Their shells are also referred to as tests because in some forms the protoplasm covers the exterior of the shell. Foraminifera are found in the deepest parts of the ocean such as the Mariana Trench, including the Challenger Deep, the deepest part known.
The research is based on laboratory models, where foraminifera have been raised under conditions of alternating levels of carbon dioxide. These studies showed, that after the sea creatures were exposed to varying acidity levels (resembling high carbon dioixde conditions) the foraminifera had trouble building their shells and also with forming spines (which form the structure of the shells). In addition the tiny creatures exhibited signs of physiological stress as shown by a reduced metabolism and a slow-down with their respiration rates.
From this, a model can be constructed for the study of the tiny creatures in the marine environment. Such study can be used to track climate change by noting variations to shell building, spine repair, and physiological stress in the foraminifera. There is a also an historical dimension to this, as lead researcher Catherine Davis explains: "That acidified water from the deep will rise again. If we do something that acidifies the deep ocean, that affects atmospheric and ocean carbon dioxide concentrations on time scales of thousands of years." So similar signs today will indicate similar significant changes , although with the human intrusion into climate change the rate of change will probably be faster.
The research is published in the journal Scientific Reports and it goes under the heading "Ocean acidification compromises a planktic calcifier with implications for global carbon cycling."
More about Climate change, Shells, Seashells, Global warming
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