The Norman Transcript

Columns

December 26, 2013

Ocean acidity increasingly harmful

LONDON — The chemistry of the oceans is changing. And it isn’t just the corals and the baby oysters that are unhappy. It makes juvenile rockfish really anxious, and it upsets the digestion of sea urchins.

The pH (a measure of acidity — the lower the pH, the more acid the water) of the planet’s oceans is dropping rapidly, largely because the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are increasing. Since carbon dioxide dissolves in water to form carbonic acid, the seas are responding to global change.

The first and clearest victims are likely to be the corals, which are adapted to a specific value of pH in the oceans, but there have also been problems reported by oyster farmers.

Now Martin Tresguerres of the University of California, San Diego reports in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B that at least one species of juvenile fish responds badly to the changes in ocean chemistry.

There is a natural aspect to ocean acidification — submarine volcanoes discharge carbon dioxide and turn the deep seas around them to a kind of fizzing champagne, and upwelling ocean currents can occasionally deliver a stressful level of lower pH sea water to blight fishing waters.

But Tresguerres reports that he and colleagues subjected young Californian rockfish to the kind of water chemistry predicted as atmospheric carbon levels rise, and then measured their behavior in response to changes of light in the aquarium, and to an unfamiliar object in the tank.

Stomach Problems: What the researchers found was that the lower pH had a pronounced effect on one of the fish neuroreceptors linked to anxiety, and this effect lasted for at least seven days after the little creatures were returned to normal sea water. The change was not permanent: normal responses seemed to return after 12 days.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Meike Stumpp of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden has been looking at how sea urchin larvae respond to altered pH in the seas. She and colleagues report in Nature Climate Change that they too tweaked the seawater chemistry, to discover that digestion took longer and was less effective, a bit of a problem for any young creature — especially one hardly a fifth of a millimeter in length — in the competitive world of the oceans.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Columns
  • Congress should close gaps

    Of all of Edward Snowden’s revelations about electronic surveillance by the National Security Agency, the most unsettling was that the government was accumulating vast numbers of records about the telephone calls of American citizens. In ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Border obsession overlooks trade

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry made headlines recently by ordering 1,000 National Guard troops to the border. This bravado comes at a price: $12 million a month. Perry plans to send the bill the federal government. That’s one way to finance your ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Intercession badly needed in this world

    Yesterday was my feast day, or as the Italians call it, my “onomastico.” Since I live in the United States, it went completely unnoticed. If I lived in Italy, however, I would have been showered with cards and phone calls. That’s because ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Porch leap looked muchbigger as a kid

    It’s no secret that porch designs have changed over the years. Drive through new Norman developments and look at the porches. Most only have room for a potted plant and a spot to drop those UPS packages, no place for a porch swing or ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Keeping the war buried

    International outrage over the downing of a Malaysian passenger plane over Ukraine on July 17 does not appear to have affected either the actions of pro-Russia forces in that country or the material support Russia is offering the rebels. ...

    July 26, 2014

  • Gaza’s victims: civilians and peace

    After more than two weeks of fighting between Hamas and Israel, there is no question which side has the upper hand. Thursday’s strike on a U.N.-run school for Palestinian children increased the Palestinian death toll to more than 760. By ...

    July 26, 2014

  • Norman Forward builds momentum

    The quiet campaign to build momentum for a citywide public works project is beginning to attract some attention....

    July 20, 2014

  • Tax those trees out of here

    I read your editorial “Pesky red cedars” in the Norman Transcript of Tuesday, July 15, 2014. I have attended two meetings where the problem of the eastern red cedar trees was discussed. Because of the drought conditions in Oklahoma, we ...

    July 20, 2014

  • Make gun safety a health issue

    Quick, are you more likely to die by a bullet or in a car crash? Common sense would seem to suggest the latter. Cars are everywhere. We are an auto-obsessed nation. To be American is to drive — everywhere. Teenagers itch to get behind the ...

    July 20, 2014

  • They just want to be free ... maybe

    Massoud Barzani, president of Iraq’s semiautonomous Kurdistan region, rattled many cages this month when he announced in parliament that the KRG would be moving ahead soon on a referendum on independence from Iraq. If Kurdistan goes ahead ...

    July 20, 2014