Marine Invasive Species May Benefit From Rising CO2 Levels
News Nov 11, 2015
Slimy, jelly-like creatures are far more tolerant of rising carbon dioxide levels than those with hard parts like corals, since exposed shells and skeletons simply dissolve away as CO2 levels rise.
The study, conducted by marine scientists at Plymouth University, has found that a number of notorious ‘nuisance’ species – such as Japanese kelp (Undaria pinnatifida) and stinging jellyfish (Pelagia noctiluca) are resilient to rising CO2 levels. They show why global warming and changes in seawater chemistry can help the spread of hundreds of damaging marine organisms.
The study notes that in the tropics, coral reefs face a host of interconnected problems (bleaching, corrosion, disease, spreading seaweed, invasive species) that are all caused by rising CO2 levels.
“We are witnessing the spread of marine life that cause problems – such as toxic jellyfish blooms and rotting algal mats,” said Professor Jason Hall-Spencer, lead author of the report. “Based on a synthesis of evidence available to date, we predict the problems associated with harmful marine life will get worse in response to rising CO2. Pathogens like cholera don’t recognise national borders so seawater warming is a health issue for cities like London, and nobody knows what organisms will spread and cause problems as Arctic shipping routes open up.”
The study arose from observations at volcanic sites in the Mediterranean, where Professor Hall-Spencer has led expeditions to record what forms of marine life cope well with higher CO2 levels. They found that invasive species of algae and jellyfish thrive at levels of carbon dioxide predicted to occur this decade. Their extensive review of laboratory experiments reveals stand-out cases such as so called ‘Killer algae’ (Caulerpa taxifolia), which is spreading world-wide, that benefit from higher CO2 but are so toxic that native herbivores die of starvation rather than eat it.
The report highlights the American slipper limpet, Crepidula fornicate, as an example of ocean acidification both helping and hindering a species, with evidence to show it has spread to Europe to become one of the 100 most invasive species, while at the same time, the species’ larvae has been placed at greater risk of predation due to reduced shell growth. Similarly, both the Red King Crab, which has invaded the Barents Sea, and the predatory snail Urosalpinx cinera, which has moved from the north west Atlantic to the north east Atlantic and Pacific, impacting upon oyster and scallop aquaculture in the process, have also demonstrated a marked reduction in larval survival and growth.
“Observations show there will be winners as well as losers as CO2 levels ramp up, just as there were in previous mass extinctions,” said researcher Ro Allen. “The spread of harmful marine organisms should be factored into risks of rising CO2 emissions.”
High Levels of Microplastics Found in Northwest Atlantic FishNews
A new study sheds light on the magnitude of microplastic pollution in our oceans. The study found microplastics in the stomachs of nearly three out of every four mesopelagic fish caught in the Northwest Atlantic -- one of the highest levels globally.READ MORE
Adding Crushed Rock to Farmland Could Reduce CO2 and Protect Crops from DiseaseNews
Farming crops with crushed rocks could help to improve global food security and capture CO2 from the atmosphere, a new study has found. The pioneering research suggests that adding fast-reacting silicate rocks to croplands could capture CO2 and give increased protection from pests and diseases while restoring soil structure and fertility.READ MORE
Aquatic Habitats Threatened by Estrogens in Treated WastewaterNews
Estrogens in treated wastewater that find their way into temporary wetlands known as vernal pools persist for weeks or even months, according to researchers, who suggest that persistence may have implications for these critical aquatic habitats.READ MORE