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Posted Fri Aug 20 2010: from Bangor Daily News:
Gulf of Maine: changing?
... But what would happen if the entire Gulf of Maine ecosystem changed at once? We may soon find out. Excess carbon dioxide, or CO2, in our atmosphere is causing ocean acidification. The ocean absorbs atmospheric CO2, and when CO2 mixes with seawater, carbonic acid develops. Increasing CO2 in the atmosphere has subsequently increased the acidity of seawater, lowering its pH. And the oceans are expected to become even more acidic over the next 200 years, as CO2 levels in the atmosphere continue to rise. In fact, atmospheric CO2 levels are predicted to nearly double over that time.... [S]helled organisms exhibit different responses to increasingly acidic marine environments. Mollusks such as bay scallops, whelks, periwin-kles, oysters, conchs, quahogs and softshell clams build their shells more slowly as the amount of atmospheric CO2 increases. And in some cases, the shells of these organisms actually begin to dissolve away.... Under high CO2 conditions, quahog shells had fewer ridges, conch shells had smaller knobs and the spines of pencil urchins became truncated. These organisms are thought to have evolved their ridges, knobs and spines for burrowing, stability and motility, respectively. Without them, these animals would be even more vulnerable to predators.... The bottom line is that the net effect of ocean acidification on marine ecosystems will likely be more severe than the sum of the responses of individual species. At the ecosystem level, it is unlikely that the weakening of some species (the mollusks) will be offset by the strengthening of others (the crustacea).
[Read more stories about: ecosystem interrelationships, ocean acidification]

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