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Impact of Earth's rising atmospheric carbon dioxide found in world oceans

than five million years, he said.

Feely and colleagues describe two major impacts of the oceanic uptake of anthropogenic CO2: They demonstrate that a substantial amount of the calcium carbonate, found in shells of marine animals living in surface waters, dissolves in the upper ocean. They then summarize the available evidence on the response of marine calcifying organisms to elevated CO2.

Feely noted that scientists have seen a reduced ability to produce protective calcium carbonate shells in many species of marine organisms at high CO2 levels, including corals and plankton, drifting plants and animals on which other marine life feeds.

"Based on our present knowledge, it appears that as seawater CO2 levels rise the skeletal growth rates of calcareous plankton will be reduced as a result of the effects of CO2 on calcification," said Victoria Fabry, a biologist at California State University at San Marcos and a paper co-author. Recent studies have shown that calcification rates can drop by as much as 25 to 45 percent at CO2 levels equivalent to atmospheric concentrations of 700 to 800 parts per million. Those levels will be reached by the end of this century if fossil fuel consumption continues at projected levels.

The scientists note that the dissolving calcium carbonate shells also partially act to neutralize CO2, thus allowing the ocean to take up more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. However, the effects of decreased calcification in microscopic algae and animals could alter marine food webs and, combined with other changes in salinity, temperature and nutrients, could substantially alter the diversity and productivity of the oceans.


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15-Jul-2004


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