Photo Courtesy of pommekiwi1
Recently there has been elevated concern about the effect small increases of ocean acidity have on some of the world’s most vulnerable marine species. A recent report has however provided some hopeful and promising new findings, suggesting many species may be well adapted to cope with acidity change.
The acidity of the world’s oceans are expected to rise from a pH of 0.3 to 0.4 within the next 90 years, predominantly due to human activities. An increase in dissolving CO2 due to human impacts is a high cause for concern in terms of the conservation of coral reefs and marine species around the globe. This elevation in pH is thought to be even more accelerated than levels which caused mass species extinctions in the past, previously eliminating between 70-90 per cent of marine biodiversity. Research has long suggested that acidity may interfere with calcium dependent species – impacting bone and shell formations. Furthermore nervous system failure has also been apparent in some marine species upon exposure to acidic environments.
Research into the effects of dissolved CO2 on juvenile fish species had previously produced worrying results. Upon exposure to these pH levels, both growth and survival of young fish are seriously impacted. More recent research however provides encouraging new knowledge, showing that juvenile fish species are able to adjust to high level changes, on condition that their parents also develop and grow within more acidic water. When scientists exposed both offspring and parent anemone fish to higher pH levels, the individuals were able to compensate for the CO2 level. It is not yet known how this capacity to deal with acidic waters is passed from parent to offspring, and it is also unknown as to whether this is a long lasting occurrence.
The current research demonstrates that some fish species are stronger than previously presumed, and this parental effect is extremely fascinating in the aim to conserve marine life. The study no doubt must continue to explore this theory in a range of other fish species, in the hope that humans may not impact fish as heavily as initially suspected. The capacity of species to cope could give conservationists vital time to reduce human acidification and thus reduce long term damage to marine life. Damage to coral reefs as a consequence of acidification however, remains a great cause for concern.
Why not get involved in some critical marine conservation work, surveying and monitoring marine species in some of the world’s most threatened environments.
By Laura Burton