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    Monday, May 29, 2017-9:55:03P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

Regional News

The loss of biodiversity in some marine habitats

RESEARCHERS with the University of British Columbia are studying the impact of ocean acidification on coral reefs, mussel beds, kelp forests, and sea grass meadows that form the homes of thousands of marine species.

The researchers were able to test their predictions against real-world data from two sites: a coral reef near Papua New Guinea and a group of sea grass beds in the Mediterranean.

In the case of the coral reef, “the diversity and complexity of marine life in the area decreased as acidification increased. Despite predictions that the sea grass beds would fare well under increased levels of carbon dioxide, no increases in biodiversity was observed.”

Researchers said “vegetated habitats respond to climate change and need present unique strategies (e.g., ‘blue carbon’) for coping with coastal biochemical change.”

In the Pacific Northwest, Christopher Harley of the University of British Columbia said “the number of medium to large-sized edible saltwater mussels is likely to decrease as the chemistry of our oceans changes, and this is bad news for the hundreds of species that use them for habitat.”

Researchers said “the more complex responses are those of sea grass beds that are vital to many fisheries species. These showed the potential to increase the number of species they can support, but the real-world evidence so far shows that they’re not reaching this potential.”

This “highlights a need to focus not only on individual species, but on how the supportive habitat that sets nature’s stage responds and interacts to climate change.”

A new study conducted by scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution found that coral reefs in Palau seem to be defying the odds, showing none of the predicted responses to low pH except for an increase in bioerosion — the physical breakdown of coral skeletons by boring organisms such as mollusks and worms.

Contrary to laboratory findings, the study stated, the effect of ocean acidification on Palau Rock Island corals is increased bioerosion rather than direct effects on coral species.

But “this doesn’t mean coral community is thriving because of the low pH, rather it is thriving despite the low pH, and we need to understand how.”