Ocean Acidification Seascape: Linking Natural Variability and Anthropogenic changes in pH and Temperature to Performance in Calcifying Antarctic Marine Invertebrates
The research supported in this project will examine the effects of environmental change on a key Antarctic marine invertebrate, a pelagic mollusk, the pteropod, Limacina helicina antarctica. There are two main activities in this project: (1) to deploy oceanographic equipment ? in this case, autonomously recording pH sensors called SeaFETs and other devices that record temperature and salinity, and (2) to use these environmental data in the laboratory at McMurdo Station to study the response of the marine invertebrates to future changes in water quality that is expected in the next few decades. Notably, changes in oceanic pH (aka ocean acidification) and ocean warming are projected to be particularly threatening to calcifying marine organisms in cold-water, high latitude seas, making tolerance data on these organisms a critical research need in Antarctic marine ecosystems.
These Antarctic shelled-animals are especially vulnerable to dissolution stress from ocean acidification because they currently inhabit seawater that is barely at the saturation level to support biogenic calcification. Indeed, these polar animals are considered to be the 'first responders' to chemical changes in the surface oceans. Thus, this project will lead to information about the adaptive capacity of L. helcina antarctica. From an ecological perspective this is important because this animal is a critical part of the Antarctic food chain in coastal waters and changes in its abundance will impact other species. Finally, the research conducted in this project will serve as a training and educational opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students as well as postdoctoral scholars.
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