July 25, 2014
Calcification In Changing Oceans Explored In Special Issue Of The Biological Bulletin
Gina Hebert, Marine Biological Laboratory
What do mollusks, starfish, and corals have in common? Aside from their shared marine habitat, they are all calcifiers — organisms that use calcium from their environment to create hard carbonate skeletons and shells for stability and protection.
As atmospheric carbon dioxide rises, the world’s oceans are becoming warmer and more acidic. This impact of global climate change threatens the survival of calcifying species because of the reduced saturation of the carbonate minerals required for calcification.
The ability to calcify arose independently in many species during the Cambrian era, when calcium levels in seawater increased. This use of calcium carbonate promoted biodiversity, including the vast array of calcifiers seen today.
“Today, modern calcifiers face a new and rapidly escalating crisis caused by warming and acidification of the oceans with a reduction in availability of carbonate minerals, a change driven by the increase in atmospheric CO2 due to anthropogenic emissions and industrialization. The CO2 itself can also directly cause metabolic stress,” write the issue’s co-editors, Maria Byrne of the University of Sydney; and Gretchen Hofmann of the University of California-Santa Barbara.
Contributors to the journal address this timely issue across many taxa and from a variety of perspectives, from genomic to ecosystem-wide.