EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE:
Thursday, 11 October 2001 at 14:00 U.S. Eastern Time
Researchers report on
possible biological effects
of deep-sea CO2
MOSS LANDING, California— Deep-sea
animals may be highly sensitive to environmental changes in carbon dioxide
concentration and pH, the predicted consequences of deep-sea carbon
sequestration. A study by researchers, reported in the 12 October 2001
issue of Science, exposes the need for more research on the
biological impacts of CO2 injection in the ocean.
In a survey of the relevant literature, Monterey Bay
Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) marine ecologist Brad Seibel and his
colleague Patrick Walsh of the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of
Marine and Atmospheric Science summarize how deep-sea animals respond to
the physiological stress caused by increased carbon dioxide in their
"We set out to synthesize and disseminate what is
known about deep-sea life physiology in the context of the environmental
changes that are likely to result from carbon sequestration,"
said Seibel. "Increasing CO2 causes a decrease in seawater
pH, creating an acidic environment that must be compensated for by
physiological responses in living organisms."
Decreased pH can result in metabolic suppression which
can inhibit growth and reproduction. Previous studies have established
that deep-sea fish and invertebrates have low metabolic rates.
Consequently, they lack the metabolic machinery required to compensate
body fluid pH changes. Seibel and Walsh describe how even small changes in
pH can impact these organisms.
International agencies are investigating deep-sea carbon
sequestration as one possible mitigation technique for emissions of carbon
dioxide, one of the primary greenhouse gases involved in global warming.
MBARI chemists have conducted some of the first experiments aimed at
understanding the chemistry and physics of CO2 in the deep
ocean. New biological studies are now underway to investigate the
ecological effects of CO2 sequestration.
"Many deep-sea organisms are extremely sensitive to
environmental change. We need more studies to characterize the extent and
method of CO2 injection to predict the broader consequences on
deep-sea ecosystems and the global biogeochemical cycles dependent on
them," said Seibel.
Debbie Meyer, 831-775-1807, email@example.com