[Coral-List] Just in time for Copenhagen

David M. Lawrence dave at fuzzo.com
Thu Dec 3 11:23:02 EST 2009

It seems WhatsUpWithThat missed significant parts of the story.  Below 
are excerpts from the WHOI press release, with my comments in brackets.


The "take-home message," says Cohen, is that "we can’t assume that 
elevated CO2 causes a proportionate decline in calcification of all 
calcifying organisms." WHOI and the National Science Foundation funded 
the work.

[Given the diversity of life on Earth, one would assume that there would 
be variability in how individual species respond to changing conditions. 
  This may be news for a geologist, but not for those of us trained in 

Conversely, some organisms—such as the soft clam and the oyster—showed a 
clear reduction in calcification in proportion to increases in CO2. In 
the most extreme finding, Ries, Cohen and WHOI Associate Scientist 
Daniel C. McCorkle exposed creatures to CO2 levels more than seven times 
the current level.

This led to the dissolving of aragonite—the form of calcium carbonate 
produced by corals and some other marine calcifiers.  Under such 
exposure, hard and soft clams, conchs, periwinkles, whelks and tropical 
urchins began to lose their shells.  "If this dissolution process 
continued for sufficient time, then these organisms could lose their 
shell completely," he said, "rendering them defenseless to predators."

[While I hope we don't get to 7X CO2, the increasing metabolic costs of 
extracting CO2 from a less favorable environment at lower CO2 levels 
means that affected organisms won't have energy for other important 
biological processes, including energy storage, immune defense, and 
reproduction. This metabolic time bomb is analogous to the balloon 
payments on those variable rate mortgages that just caused our economy 
to tank.]

"The oceans absorb much of the CO2 that we release to the atmosphere," 
Ries says.  However, he warns that this natural buffer may ultimately 
come at a great cost.

"It’s hard to predict the overall net effect on benthic marine 
ecosystems, he says. "In the short term, I would guess that the net 
effect will be negative. In the long term, ecosystems could re-stabilize 
at a new steady state.

"The bottom line is that we really need to bring down CO2 levels in the 

[I think the closing quote says it all.]

Eugene Shinn wrote:
> Those into ocean acidification will appreciate this. And yes GEOLOGY 
> is a peer reviewed journal. Gene 
> http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/12/01/oh-snap-co2-causes-ocean-critters-to-build-more-shells/#more-13543

  David M. Lawrence        | Home:  (804) 559-9786
  7471 Brook Way Court     | Fax:   (804) 559-9787
  Mechanicsville, VA 23111 | Email: dave at fuzzo.com
  USA                      | http:  http://fuzzo.com

"We have met the enemy and he is us."  -- Pogo

"No trespassing
  4/17 of a haiku"  --  Richard Brautigan

More information about the Coral-List mailing list