Sunday, October 6, 2013

Stressed krill first sign of damage

Andrew Darby in the Sydney Morning Herald: Turns out it's the little things we need to worry about in climate change. When they're in trouble, a great polar ecosystem may be, too.

The oceans are now absorbing so much carbon dioxide they are acidifying at an unprecedented rate, according to the International Program on the State of the Ocean. Geological records show the current acidification is unparalleled in at least the past 300 million years, IPSO's latest State of the Ocean report says. ''We are entering an unknown territory of marine ecosystem change, and exposing organisms to intolerable evolutionary pressure,'' it says.

The smallest of these creatures in the remote Antarctic marine ecosystem are said to be showing some of the earliest signs of acidification damage. And work by Australian scientists shows greater problems lie in store for the creatures at the centre of the Antarctic food web - krill.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt pointed to warnings of increasing ocean acidification as the most important new advice from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's latest report. ''In the debate around climate change, research on acidification of the oceans is a particular personal concern,'' Mr Hunt said. ''This has been reinforced by the work of Australian scientists, particularly in the Antarctic.

''The Southern Ocean is specially vulnerable to increased acidity because of the cold water and the type of marine life. If there are changes in these environments, then there is a flow-on impact across the entire marine system.''...

Antarctic krill, shot by Uwe Kils, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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