Ocean Acidification: Too Much of a Good Thing?
Part C: Ocean Acidification: A Risky Shell Game?
Scientists are only beginning to do the research on how individual species of organisms might respond to increasing levels of ocean acidity as atmospheric levels of CO2 continue to rise. Will some species adapt and others not? Find out how scientists are trying to answer this question in a laboratory setting:
- Read the article Ocean Acidification: A Risky Shell Game
- Explore the interactive embedded in the article. This interactive will help you understand the chemical relationship between carbon dioxide, shell-building, H+ ions, and ocean acidification.
As you read the article and explore the interactive, make note of the types of organisms they tested and how they responded to increasing amounts of CO2. Record them in the table your teacher gives you. Your teacher may decide to assign each group specific organisms.
- What levels of atmospheric CO2 did scientists expose the marine organisms to in their experimental design? Why did they choose these levels of atm CO2?
- Why do shell-builders have to pump H+ ions out from their tissues and back into seawater?
Stop and Think
1: From the article, choose two types of marine organisms that respond differently to increasing ocean acidification. Compare and contrast them in terms of how they responded to increasing ocean acidity.
In Lab 5, you learned that the biological pump sequesters large amounts of carbon dioxide in food chains and in shell-building organisms that eventually die and sink to the bottom of the ocean. Could ocean acidification inhibit the ocean's ability to sequester carbon? If so, what might happen to other components of the carbon cycle? To research answers to these important questions, you will take on the role of a marine biologist!
Begin your research by reading this ScienceDaily Echinoderms Contribute to Global Carbon Sink: Impact of Sea Creatures Underestimated
Explain how echinoderms such as starfish, sea urchins, and brittle stars contribute to the ocean carbon sink?
Get started on your research!
Your Research Question: Could ocean acidification inhibit the ability of the oceans to sequester carbon?
Your Experimental Design:
- Sea Urchin eggs collected from off the coast of California will be raised in two different pH environments " a pH of 8.1, which represents ocean pH conditions today, and a pH of 7.7, which is predicted within the next 100 years if CO2 emissions continue to rise.
- The skeleton arms of juvenile sea urchin larva will be measured and graphed.