Sea Change: Pacific Ocean Takes Perilous Turn

By Craig Welch, The Seattle Times

Ocean acidification, the lesser-known twin of climate change, threatens to scramble marine life on a scale almost too big to fathom.

NORMANBY ISLAND, Papua New Guinea — Katharina Fabricius plunged from a dive boat into the Pacific Ocean of tomorrow.

She kicked through blue water until she spotted a ceramic tile attached to the bottom of a reef.

A year earlier, the ecologist from the Australian Institute of Marine Science had placed this small square near a fissure in the sea floor where gas bubbles up from the earth. She hoped the next generation of baby corals would settle on it and take root.

Fabricius yanked a knife from her ankle holster, unscrewed the plate and pulled it close. Even underwater the problem was clear. Tiles from healthy reefs nearby were covered with budding coral colonies in starbursts of red, yellow, pink and blue. This plate was coated with a filthy film of algae and fringed with hairy sprigs of seaweed.

Instead of a brilliant new coral reef, what sprouted here resembled a slimy lake bottom.

Isolating the cause was easy. Only one thing separated this spot from the lush tropical reefs a few hundred yards away.

Carbon dioxide.

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Nervous Nemo: Ocean Acidification Could Make Fish Anxious

By Douglas Maine, December 6th, 2013  Livescience.com

Ocean acidification threatens to make fish, like this juvenile rockfish, more anxious.

Ocean acidification threatens to make fish, like this juvenile rockfish, more anxious.
Credit: Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Ocean acidification, which is caused by rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere being absorbed into the sea, has made many worry because of the problems it will likely create, such as a decline in shellfish and coral reefs. But humans may not be alone in their anxiety: Ocean acidification threatens to make fish more anxious as well (and not because they are reading about ocean acidification on LiveScience.com. At least so far as we know.)

A new study found that after being placed for a week in an aquarium with acidic seawater — as acidic as the oceans are expected to be on average in a century’s time — juvenile rockfish spent more time in a darkened corner, a hallmark of fish anxiety, and the same behavior exhibited by fish given an anxiety-inducing drug.

“They behaved the same way as fish made anxious with a chemical,” said Martin Tresguerres, a marine biologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego.

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