News brief—March 3, 2008

Ocean acidification may affect photosynthesis in marine algae

kolber-lab-100

MBARI research engineer Zbigniew Kolber tests the photosynthetic efficiency of marine algae.

MBARI researcher Zbigniew Kolber will present findings on the effects of ocean acidification on photosynthesis in the sea at a press conference during the 2008 Ocean Sciences Meeting March 2 through 7 in Orlando, Florida. Kolber’s lab team grew phytoplankton (microscopic marine plants) under conditions that mimic an acid environment predicted 100-300 years into the future. When the pH (the measure of change in acidity) shifted by more than 0.25 units, key steps in the chemical process of photosynthesis were affected. Under conditions typical of the coastal ocean, acidic shifts greater than 0.5 pH units reduced phytoplankton growth rates by 10-20%. Current estimates indicate that upper ocean pH has already shifted 0.1 units worldwide. Phytoplankton generate roughly half of the oxygen we breathe and are often called the “lungs of the planet.” In addition to Kolber’s talk, other MBARI researchers will offer more than 35 presentations during the meeting.

For additional information or images relating to this article, please contact: Kim Fulton-Bennett
831-775-1835, kfb@mbari.org