Most discussion on the impacts of climate change in the oceans has focused on sea level rise. Less well known to the public and policy makers is the continuing decrease in ocean pH resulting from increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. Such “ocean acidification” will affect marine life across the globe and throughout the food chain. The implications for social policy could be enormous. By studying the effects of carbon dioxide on deep-sea animals, scientists can begin to understand how deep ocean ecosystems may change as more and more of this gas dissolves in the ocean.
The biological and chemical components of most ecosystems are heavily dependent on each other. Nutrient loading can determine ecosystem structure by enhancing or reducing primary production. Primary production, in turn, is the main source of nutrients for all other organisms within the ecosystem. Species composition and growth rates of the primary producers can determine what organisms will thrive in the environment, and what ones will not survive. Many factors, such as temperature, precipitation, or geographic location each contribute to the dynamic structure of aquatic ecosystems by affecting nutrients, physical forces, or the organisms themselves.
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Plates from Ernst Haeckel's Kunstformen der Natur (Artforms of nature) (1904)