Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Pauline Yu, Ph.D.

University of California, Santa Barbara

At arms’ length: ocean pH, invertebrate development and physiological relevance

Wednesday — January 26, 2011
Pacific Forum — 3:00 p.m.

Global carbon emissions will increase the CO2 concentration in the oceans, resulting in a global pH decrease in the surface waters. Coastal ocean waters are dynamic with regards to carbonate chemistry because of their high productivity, but are also of greatest interest because of the ecosystem services provided. We deployed the SeaFET pH sensor at a coastal reef in Santa Barbara and in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica and observed two extremes of pH variation—dynamic changes off California and high stability in nearshore polar waters. Framed by local parameters and IPCC scenarios, we performed manipulative experiments on sea urchin larvae to compare early development responses at low pH. We observed depressed arm growth, and fertilization success but developmental progress, asymmetry and metabolic rate were less affected. The capacity of animals to acclimate to rising CO2 is still an incomplete picture, but the variability of the environment may be the ultimate constraint.


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