The heartbreak of Emiliania huxleyi

From San Francisco State University  another indication that nature is such a poor engineer that phytoplankton can’t adapt to a small change in ocean pH. But then again it is a closed lab experiment, not the ocean, and there’s those weasel words of “might”, “could”, and “may”.

Researchers explore plankton’s shifting role in deep sea carbon storage

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 13, 2011 — The tiny phytoplankton Emiliania huxleyi, invisible to the naked eye, plays an outsized role in drawing carbon from the atmosphere and sequestering it deep in the seas. But this role may change as ocean water becomes warmer and more acidic, according to a San Francisco State University research team.

In a study published this week in the journal Global Change Biology, SF State Assistant Professor of Biology Jonathon Stillman and colleagues show how climate-driven changes in nitrogen sources and carbon dioxide levels in seawater could work together to make Emiliania huxleyi a less effective agent of carbon storage in the deep ocean, the world’s largest carbon sink.

Changes to this massive carbon sink could have a critical effect on the planet’s future climate, Stillman said, especially as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels continue to rise sharply as a result of fossil fuel burning and other human activities.

While floating free in the sunny top layers of the oceans, the phytoplankton develop elaborate plates of calcified armor called coccoliths. The coccoliths form a hard and heavy shell that eventually sinks to the ocean depths. “About 80 percent of inorganic carbon trapped down there is from coccoliths like these,” said Stillman.

Stillman and his colleagues wanted to discover how ocean acidification and changes in the ocean’s nitrogen cycle—both hallmarks of climate warming—might effect coccolith development. So they raised more than 200 generations of Emiliania huxleyi in the lab, adjusting carbon dioxide levels and the type of nitrogen in the phytoplankton’s seawater bath.

They found that high levels of carbon dioxide—which make the water more acidic—along with a shift in the prevailing nitrogen type from nitrates to ammonium—”had a synergistic effect” on the phytoplankton’s biology and growth.

In particular, coccoliths formed under conditions of high carbon dioxide and high ammonium levels were incomplete or hollow, and contained less than the usual amount of inorganic carbon, the researchers noted.

“The ratio of inorganic to organic carbon is important,” Stillman explained. “As inorganic carbon increases, it adds more ballast to the hard shell, which makes it sink and makes it more likely to be transported to the deep ocean. Without this, the carbon is more likely to be recycled into the Earth’s atmosphere.”

“Our results suggest in the future there will be overall lower amounts of calcification and overall lower amount of transport of carbon to the deep ocean,” he added.

Emiliania huxleyi typically use nitrates to make proteins, but this form of nitrogen may be in shorter supply for the phytoplankton as the world’s oceans grow warmer and more acidic, Stillman and colleagues suggest. In the open ocean, nitrates are upwelled from deep waters, but a thickening layer of warmer surface water could inhibit this upwelling. At the same time, the warmer temperatures favor bacteria that turn recycled nitrogen from surface waters and the atmosphere into ammonium, and acidification inhibits the bacteria that turn ammonium into nitrate.

“It is likely that in the future, the ocean surface will contain more ammonium,” which the phytoplankton will assimilate instead of nitrates, Stillman suggested. “Metabolizing nitrogen as ammonium versus nitrates requires different biochemical constituents that impact how well the cells make their coccoliths. They will survive just fine, but their biology will be different as a result.”

The study by Stillman and colleagues is the first to look at the intertwined effects of ocean acidification and changes in nitrogen on phytoplankton like Emiliania huxleyi. It’s also one of the first studies to observe these effects continuously over a long time scale, “so the responses of the phytoplankton are likely what we’ll see in the ocean itself,” Stillman said.

Stephane Lefebrve, the SF State postdoctoral student who developed the experiments for the study, said he is now looking for phytoplankton genes that “will help us to build the genetic blueprint of their responses to elevated carbon dioxide and a nitrogen source”

###

 

Lefebvre, Ina Benner, Alexander Parker, Michelle Drake, Pascale Rossignol, Kristine Okimura, Tomoko Komada, and Edward Carpenter, all from SF State’s Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies, were co-authors on the Global Change Biology study.

“Nitrogen source and pCO2 synergistically affect carbon allocation, growth and morphology of the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi: implications of ocean acidification for the carbon cycle,” was published online in October by the journal Global Change Biology.

Jonathon Stillman and Stephane Lefebvre may be reached by contacting Nan Broadbent at SF State: nbroadbe@sfsu.edu or at 415-338-7108.

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Mike Bromley the Kurd

“Weasel words”….now THAT is worth the price of admission. Excellent!

Lonnie E. Schubert

I love it, “inorganic carbon”. These researchers call shells made by living organisms inorganic, while many geologists refer to limestone as a biodeposit.

Brian H

Excellent! Less loss of CO2. Thanks, Emili!

I think the press release could be classified as a, ahem, biodeposit.

Werner Brozek

According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocean_acidification
the ocean pH will only reach 7.824 by the year 2100. This is still in the basic part and not in the acidic part. Then how can ocean water become “more acidic” if it was never acidic to begin with? Technically, I know what they are saying, but “less basic” would be more accurate. However that apparently does not sound scary enough nor does it evoke images of acid rain and dead fish.

Mark Hladik

And the effect on the carbonate compensation depth is … … ….

Lew Skannen

This process is so clear even the doziest schlub can see it.
Create some random story which involves
1. Your particular area of research interest
2. A construction of points which implies some kind of eco-problem looming
3. Some uncertainties which require further research
4. Add in that new magic ingredient “Climate Change!!”
and you will have the perfect funding application.
I wonder whether there are any branches of science which don’t try and crowbar AGW into their funding requests.

harry

An acid donates protons.
Oceans are alkaline and becoming slightly less alkaline, their tendency to donate protons is exactly zero and has been zero throughout the Industrial revolution.
Oceans are not acidifying, they are becoming less alkaline.

RockyRoad

Man oh man, I’m SO glad Earth has maintained an absolutley constant temperature over all the globe–regardless of height of mountain or depth of sea, polar clime or equatorial jungle.
Maybe that’s what causes “rotten ice”–it lasts just as long in the Sahara as it does in the Arctic as it does in the… Wait, are they intimating temperature is the same everywhere? They can’t be saying even the slightest itsy bitsy variation would upset the ecological balance past some tipping point beyond which there’s no return!
/sarc

Chris

As soon as one sees the phrase “more acidic” (first paragraph), you know that this is yet more puerile ‘research’, and the remainder of the article is immediately rejected by this writer.
At the risk of sounding pedantic, the phrase above is comparative, which implies that seawater is already acidic. Since when, may I ask?

captainfish

Ok, let me get this straight. These plankton create different carbon-based layers depending on the amount of CO2, and that difference is the amount of inorganic carbon pulled out of the CO2 molecule and utilized in the shell making?
So, there are two types of CO2 molecules now? Organic and Inorganic? Does that mean we have two versions of Oxygen too? Organic oxygen and inorganic oxygen?

“But this role may change as ocean water becomes warmer and more acidic, according to a San Francisco State University research team.”
“Changes to this massive carbon sink could have a critical effect on the planet’s future climate, Stillman said, especially as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels continue to rise sharply as a result of fossil fuel burning and other human activities.”
========================
These people making the press release are, in terms of groupthink, dumber than the Stormtroopers. There is so much circular reasoning…it becomes a vortex.
Obviously either i) they have to make homage to the Funding Gods or they wont get their money….or ii) they are just stupid.
I think it is i). And I think it is the continued Groupthink Disorder of the whole CAGW scam.
Groupthink Disorder is really a “collective” disease.
Odd. We can build rockets to the moon, but sometimes we can’t rationally think ourselves out of a paper bag.
Regards,
Chris
Norfolk, VA, USA

Ray

Why the hell do they always want to store carbon for eternity? Once it is all stored that will be the end of all life on earth (at least life that depends on oxygen).

Only to echo the other commentators…….first, it isn’t shown the oceans are becoming less base. This should be shown, first, before we wet our pants about anything else that hinges on the ocean becoming less base. Secondly…….. inorganic carbon…….. 🙂 Ok, I’m going to resist the idea of e-mailing our friend with pages of “lol’s”, nor will I just dial the number and laugh hysterically into the phone. Instead, I’m going to play along……… if there’s such a thing as inorganic carbon, then tell me again how oil is finite? …….. naw, probably more productive just to call and laugh.
Inorganic carbon……. I love it!

Jeff D

This one cracks me up.
Guess now we have to have combinations of problems to create real big problems. Love what if’s.
What if I put myself in a tank with high levels of CO2 and Ammonia? Pretty sure I am not going to grow very well either.
As a reef keeper for over 30 years I have just a little bit of experience with the balancing act of carbonates and calcium as well as the aquatic nitrogen cycle.
Lets stick with their premise for a sec that we are suffering from Global Warming. As the oceans warm we will get off gassing of CO2. Most skeptics “I think” are pretty sure a big part of the increase in CO2 is this off gassing from the oceans. As the CO2 levels of the ocean drop the PH will increase. This part is just from warming of the oceans. Lets add to this the huge amount of dissolved carbonates (buffering) the oceans have. Now lets include all the calcium carbonates from all the worlds sands and reefs ” old dead sections” . If the huge buffering capacity of the ocean gets a bit low we now have calcium carbonates that will dissolve and again provided buffering to the ocean water. So basically we will have to add so much acid to the water that we dissolve all the coral reefs and sands across the vast oceans to deplete the oceans ability to buffer itself. Not Gonna Happen… Well what if we get hit by a giant comet of CO2? Guess it could happen then but who would really care.

MrV

Anyone got a link to the paper?
What is the definition of ‘high’ CO2 in their lab conditions? How do these compare to real world CO2 levels.
Also I assume the ocean pH is not homogenous throughout the world, so are there real world observations of this species in varying real ocean conditions, or perhaps experiments using different samples of ocean water.

Baa Humbug

Firstly

Dissolved inorganic carbon has a nutrient-like vertical profile due to uptake by phytoplankton. Concentrations are lowest in the Atlantic, where deep water sinks into the ocean depth, and higher in the deep waters of the Pacific as POC (Particulate Organic Carbon)sinks into the deep-sea and is remineralized to DIC (data). The titration alkalinity values increase as deep water flows along the conveyor. The increase in TAlk is driven, primarily, by dissolution of calcium carbonate shells sinking through the water column. The changes in TCO2 and TAlk drive large changes in the concentrations of (CO2), (HCO3-) and (CO32-), which are all chemical species of inorganic carbon.

Secondly, I’ll see the Stillman study and raise it with the following…
Feng et al (2008)

In a somewhat similar study, Feng et al. (2008) grew the marine coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi — which they isolated from the Sargasso Sea — by semi-continuous culture methods at two different (low, high) light intensities (50 and 400 µmol photons/m2/sec), two different (low, high) temperatures (20 and 24°C), and two different (low, high) CO2 concentrations (375 and 750 ppm); and in doing so, they found that in the low-light environment, the chlorophyll a-normalized photosynthetic rates of the coccolithophores in all four temperature/CO2 treatments attained maximum values at an irradiance of approximately 200 µmol photons/m2/sec, where the maximum rate was lowest in the low-temperature, low-CO2 or ambient treatment, but was significantly increased by 55% by elevated temperature alone and by 95% by elevated CO2 alone, while in the high-temperature, high-CO2 or greenhouse treatment it was increased by 150% relative to the ambient treatment.

And Halloran et al. (2008) at the same link

Working with the same sediment core, Halloran et al. (2008) analyzed the size distribution of CaCO3 particles in the less-than-10-µm sediment fraction over the past quarter-century. This work revealed, as they describe it, “a changing particle volume since the late 20th century consistent with an increase in the mass of coccoliths produced by the larger coccolithophore species,” leading them to conclude that “in the real ocean the larger coccolithophore species increase their calcification in response to anthropogenic CO2 release [italics added],” contrary to what typically occurs in the lifeless “virtual ocean” of theoreticians who see bad consequences in nearly everything that could possibly be related to the historical rise in the air’s CO2 concentration. In addition, the four researchers state that this positive calcification response “could be attributed to an alleviation of CO2 limitation in species that partly rely on the diffusive supply of dissolved carbon dioxide for photosynthesis, as demonstrated by a rise in photosynthetic efficiency with increasing carbon dioxide in cultures of E. huxleyi (Rost et al., 2003).”

There is no shortage of studies that reach the opposite conclusions to that of Stillman. One just needs to go to the CO2Science web site and punch in the term Emiliania huxleyi into their search facility and spend the next few hours reading and making up ones own mind.
p.s. these critters we are talking about release Dimethylsulfides into the atmosphere, the very stuff that helps in cloud formation.
So a warming world with more sunshine hours and CO2 increases the phytoplankton cycle which increases the cloud formation nuclei.
Sounds like more of natures negative feedback to me.

I was taught that adding ammonia (though this release spoke of ammonium, an ion) to water makes it more alkaline, contra to CO2 making it less alkaline, all other things being equal.
Also, what is the source of the upwelling nitrate? Overall, in the oceans, there are many interacting oxidation-reduction rections who rates and equilibria are affected by, among other factors, temperature, ionic strength, co-factors (such as calcium ions), biogenic activity, light ….. An author simply cannot pluck out of the air an item like “upwelling nitrogen”. The full set of interacting redox reactions and cycles, as a minimum, has to be described, with uncertainties.
Athough we are reading from a press release, some accuracy is required. “Coccoliths … contained less than the usual amount of inorganic carbon” is not scientific terminology. Did they contain less than the usual amount per creature, or less than the usual amount per diameter? Were the treated coccoliths made weaker so that they died and reproduced at a different rate, one that could increase the wight of sea floor deposition?
One comes away no wiser.

LazyTeenager

Anthony says this:
another indication that nature is such a poor engineer that phytoplankton can’t adapt to a small change in ocean pH.
The article actually says this:
They will survive just fine, but their biology will be different as a result.”
The article is actually about how the balance between cell proteins and shell are affected by the carbon and nitrogen nutrient levels.
Higher CO2 levels will produce less fixed carbon that will become sediment.
In short the article is not about the survival of the plant. And the increased protein levels suggested by the research makes it a better food source in the food chain but it will upset the environments carbon budget.

davidmhoffer

Jeff D beat me to it.
These poor plankton don’t have to worry about high levels of CO2 because, according to the IPCC, the warming will cause massive outgassing of CO2 from the ocean, so the CO2 levels will be lower, not higher.
This in turn will cause massive increases in temperature, which will cause still more outgassing (a polite term for burping and farting). As the cycle reinforces itself, the plankton will obviously die, but of what? CO2 starvation? Or will the oceans boil away? Or can the plankton survive boiling? If so, for how long? Can they survive until there is no water left and then they die from drying out?
I consulted the geological record to see if there was any measure of ocean PH during those time periods when CO2 levels were in the 10,000 PPM range, but alas, I couldn’t find anything. There was supposedly one paper that was published in print form only, but when I went to the university library to review it, there was only a note that it had been withdrawn by the editor and an apology submitted to Kevin Trenberth. At the bottom it said “PS – models are being constructed to analyze this matter and will be used to determine reality”

Leon Brozyna

It strikes me that “science by press release” is becoming “science for press release” and all the sloppy thinking that it contains.
Just look at how the very sloppy reasoning has crept into science by constant references to the oceans becoming more acidic. They’d have to be acidic before they can become more acidic. Of course, it just wouldn’t carry the degree of panic desired to be precise and say that the oceans are becoming less alkaline. Heck, it almost sounds benign to say that the oceans, through increased absorption of carbon dioxide, are being neutralized and are becoming less alkaline.
Come to think of it, speaking of the pH of the oceans sounds as silly as speaking of an imaginary global temperature.

Luther Wu

Pardon, but it’s uncertain whether there is even enough carbon on the planet to turn the ocean acidic and that’s just the first mistake leading up to this paper’s failing grade. So much is wrong with this piece of “work”- where to begin? if this paper were a high school science project, I could look kindly at the authors and offer some friendly advice. However, these “scientists” don’t even rate an “E” for effort.

RandomReal[]

One of the main problems that I have in the way that scientific results are communicated these days is the phenomenon of publication by press release. Usually, there is only a hint of what the study actually found since the work has to be condensed, and since this is a press release, some popular spin is attached to the work. What is most annoying is that usually the manuscript is behind a paywall (the evil empires of Wiley et al.) and is thus not accessible for the general public to read. Even more annoying in this case is the absence of a link to the paper: I had to go searching the journal’s web site and to find it. Moreover, given the proliferation of specialized journals, I would suspect that academics in modest sized institutions would not have immediate access. I only wish the general biology community would embrace something like the arXiv in which preprints and working papers could be deposited and accessed. All that being said, there is no way for me to intelligently comment on the results of the paper.
A quick perusal of Google Scholar (the best way to find non-paywalled versions of articles) did provide some context. From a quick reading, a long standing question has been what limits the growth of these phytoplankton in high nutrient – low chlorophyll regions of the ocean. The leading suspect has been iron limitation. This reasoning follows from the observation that ammonia concentrations in HNLC regions are relatively low and thus confer an additional burden (increased requirement of reducing power) to the cells. In the absence of ammonia, cells have to reduce nitrates and nitrites to ammonia in order to assimilate nitrogen. Since Fe is used as a cofactor in the enzymes that reduce nitrates and nitrites to ammonia, the thought was that Fe-limitation limited nitrogen assimilation in high nitrate/low ammonia environments. There appears to have been much work on the physiology surrounding Fe availability and nitrogen assimilation. Unfortunately, the physiology of Emiliania huxleyi is complicated (I don’t know of any organism that has a simple physiology) and the mechanisms that determine growth rate and other physiological phenomena are poorly understood. Compounding this is the use of different isolates from different global locations that under similar conditions have a two-fold difference in maximal growth rates.
It is within this context that the quote,
“Metabolizing nitrogen as ammonium versus nitrates requires different biochemical constituents that impact how well the cells make their coccoliths.”
struck me as odd. All microbes that I am aware of prefer ammonia as their source of nitrogen. Only under severe ammonia limitation will cells turn to other pathways to assimilate nitrogen from the environment. The basic pathway is NOx –> NH3 –> glutamine –> glutamate –> amino acid, nucleotides, etc. Having ammonia present usually results in the genes for Nitrate/Nitrite reduction being turned off. Indeed, it appears that growth rate is faster when ammonia is present, and faster growing cells have an increased cell volume. In bacteria, cell volume increases as the growth rate increases for the simple fact that faster growth requires more biosynthetic machinery (think ribosomes) to make more cellular constituents (and more synthetic machinery) and cell volume has to increase to fit the extra machinery.
Reading beyond the press release and abstract, I suspect that increasing nutrient availability in the form of CO2 and NH3 leads to an increased growth rate and larger cell volume. Given our lack of understanding of this cell’s physiology and our even poorer understanding of the nutrient cycles in the ocean, I would hesitate to speculate on the consequences of increased pCO2 in the oceans. Even more tenuous is the common speculation of altered nitrogen source availability.
I would like to end by emphasizing that I fully support funding for modest research projects such as these. Gaining a better understanding of ocean nutrient cycles is an important intellectual pursuit (How does that work?) along with many other scientific endeavors. What gets lost in the din of the climate debates are the practical, closer to home applications of such basic research, for example the food web and fisheries.

harry says:
October 14, 2011 at 7:51 pm
An acid donates protons.
Oceans are alkaline and becoming slightly less alkaline, their tendency to donate protons is exactly zero and has been zero throughout the Industrial revolution.
Oceans are not acidifying, they are becoming less alkaline.
=============================
Extremely well said.
Repeated here for effect…specifically in case Slack Adolescent (you know who you are) or other blog goofballs, missed it.
Chris
Norfolk, VA, USA

If someone wonders where all the chalk deposits (like the white cliffs of Dover and much of the underground of southern England and West France) all over the world are coming from: The same coccolith species that, according to this study, will suffer from higher CO2. They did deposit it millions of years ago during the Cretaceous (what is in a name!), when global temperatures (warm poles, no ice at all) were much higher than now and CO2 levels 10-12 times higher. The coccoliths deposited layer by layer, hundreds meter thick at last. That is one of the reasons why CO2 levels are much lower today, as much is stored in these layers and not directly available for the atmosphere and plants… See:
http://www.noc.soton.ac.uk/soes/staff/tt/eh/

Jeff D

Ammonia does not last very long in the oceans. Even in a closed system such as a reef tank ammonia is metabolized so fast as to be almost unmeasurable. I am unsure as to how they anticipate high ammonia levels to even exist.
I can understand how maybe, just maybe we can get CO2 levels back up to 700ppm or more. This will not be enough to change the PH of the Ocean to any great extent and will self regulate with the buffers that are available, but what cataclysm is required to now have high levels of ammonia as well? For this to happen all of the nitrogen fixing bacteria world wide would have to be destroyed.
Mother Nature is pretty slick. Offer up a food source and there is something that is going to eat it. Ammonia = food. Ammonia then makes its way to nitrate. Nitrate now becomes plant food that feed the micro-algeas which in turn feed the plankton, oh hell the circle of life you guys know this one. Never mind.

Legatus

And what are the consequences if this is true? If the phytoplankton absorb less CO2, that means that if there is more CO2 and we have less CO2 absorbed, right? That means that once there is enough CO2, it will never be removed from the atmosphere, but will persist forever. However, we <have had much more CO2 in the past, and then we had less CO2, how, exactly, did that happen? And how many days ago was it that we saw “At the end of the last Ice Age, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rose rapidly as the planet warmed; scientists have long hypothesized that the source was CO2 released from the deep ocean. But a new study using detailed radiocarbon dating of foraminifera found in a sediment core from the Gorda Ridge off Oregon reveals that the Northeast Pacific was not an important reservoir of carbon during glacial times. Sooo, there was less CO2 in the air during the ice age, yet we see that big bunches of carbon were not stored by these plankton in the deep ocean, and now we are told that greater amounts of CO2 will cause less to be stored. Fill me in here, which is it, lesser or greater amounts of CO2 that cause less CO2 to be stored down there? This study has been falsified before it was ever even published.
And exactly what do they mean by “high ammonium levels” anyway? Exactly how high, is that high even possible, is it high enough to kill all the fish? What did they do, dump in a bottle of cleaner?
Therefore this study is merely being made to support the consensus and therefore receive the approval and cash of their superiors. In other words, they are gutless cowards who could never stand up for the truth if they somehow managed to stumble across it, scientists in name only, with only the high moral fiber necessary to do anything anyone wants if it gets them the loot. They deserve nothing but to be laughed out of the company of scientists, scorned by all who see them, and are fit only for menial labor (under direct and constant supervision). And meanwhile, all the “scientists” who end their study that shows that, say, another mini ice age is coming, but who then add the provision “but this does not invalidate global warming, of course”, should be laughed at as the cowards they are. If they cannot stand up for the truth, then they should not be allowed to claim the title “scientist” at all.

pat

Sheeeesh. Romney believes Holder is a real scientist.
http://www.climatedepot.com/

ANH

Please can someone explain what this article has to do with Cornwall?
No mention of it that I can find but map at top of article is definitely the south west corner of England.

Jeff D

ANH says:
October 14, 2011 at 11:23 pm
Please can someone explain what this article has to do with Cornwall?
lol ,my guess is that it made a pretty picture for the background. Emiliania huxleyi can be found in about any ocean.

This is for James Sexton and several of the other commentators here:
First direct evidence of ocean acidification
Now, about the inorganic and organic carbon nomenclature. Inorganic carbon in the ocean is defined as calcium carbonate in all its forms. Organic carbon is the “soft” carbon that makes up the bodies of phytoplankton and zooplankton and all the other organisms made primarily of carbon, which with the exception of some siliceous phytoplankton (diatoms) and even some weirder strontianites, is pretty much most of it. Obviously diatoms have organic carbon in them too, I’m just pointing out that there are other hard minerals floating in the sea besides CaCO3. If you have quibbles about the terminology, take it up with the oceanographers!

joachim

There are some misunderstandings about what inorganic carbon is. When CO2 is disolved in water it turn into carbonic acid in the ionized form, HCO3^-. Both CO2 and carbonic acid are inorganic carbon molecules. Inorganic is here a chemical term and does not reflect the origin of the substance or molecule. The simplest example of organic carbon is methane CH4.

Jeff D

Oakden Wolf (@oakden_wolf) says:
October 15, 2011 at 12:02 am
This is for James Sexton and several of the other commentators here:
First direct evidence of ocean acidification
A PH shift of .0017. Only in the upper levels where biological activity alone could easily explain this tiny difference. From personal observations for 30 years. A healthy tank can have a PH swing from 7.9 to 8.6 from morning to evening with just photosynthesis.
I know there are some nice toys to make readings but I am willing to bet almost anything that the error range of the sensor used is close to the stated change.
Were the reading taken at the same time of the day?
If the waters are warming they will off gas CO2… Less CO2 higher PH. So they need to make up their minds. Either its getting warmer or CO2 is increasing. You really can’t have it both ways.
To make the claim that man made CO2 is alone responsible is laughable and the explanation of how to asses the man made portion seems just a bit weak.

You can almost hear it in their writing … “how on earth are we going to show there is any effect of all this CO2 … wait a minute, couldn’t we argue ….. that’ll get us another grant”.

D. King

Which came first; the CO2 chicken, or the Emiliania huxleyi egg?
[snip – the video adds nothing ~jove, Mod]

Nick

I can see my house in that shot – well, I would be able to if I had a magnifying glass.

Don K

“Please can someone explain what this article has to do with Cornwall?” ANH
========
I assume — don’t know for sure — that the light blue swirls at the lower right are blooms of Emiliania huxleyi, and that the point is to show how very numerous the little things can be when conditions for their growth are favorable.

Julian Flood

Look at the present situation, not just the future.
We are altering the nutrient staus of the oceans: fertiliser run-off, effluent and dust increases caused by agriculture are the direct inputs, while the smoothing of the oceans surface by spilled oil is also reducing the turnover in the lit layers, reducing the upwelling of deep nutrients.
So we have fewer phytoplankton overall and, nb, the population will also change. E huxleyi is one of the calcareous plankton: these are typically C3 fixers, using the metabolic pathways that discriminate against the heavier isotopes of C and which thus leave a heavy isotope signal in the atmosphere.
Add silica, starve the lit layers of the ocean and watch what happens. Silica is the limiting nutrient for diatoms and until it is depleted the calcareous phytos have to wait — only when the diatoms have finished their bloom can the calcareous types get to perform their milky act. So our changes are encouraging diatoms (which have a C4-like metabolism which pulls down more heavy isotopes of C, less C pulldown overall because they have silica shells), reducing the amount of heavy C in the atmosphere and letting the atmospheric levels of CO2 increase. The calcareous phytos now move centre stage, but find a depleted ocean: some types react by adopting C4 fixation, all are less succesful and pull down less C for export to the deep.
The atmosphere is left with more CO2 but with less of the heavy isotopes. This is the ‘anthropogenic carbon’ signal which ‘proves’ that it is fossil fuel burning which is causing the increase. Or, of course, not.
I do wish people would apply a bit of common sense to this whole affair.
JF
BTW, this could all be complete tosh — the good folk at San Francisco State have the facilities to do the experiment to see if it is or not. If it is, forget I said anything. If not — well, credit me in the papers and I wish to share the Nobel.

King of Cool

No may be’s, if’s or could be’s with the following research:
http://www.antarctica.gov.au/about-antarctica/fact-files/climate-change/ocean-acidification-and-the-southern-ocean
They say in the Southern Ocean and other open-ocean ecosystems, calcifying organisms WILL be affected by “acidification”.
They also say that “Even if all carbon emissions stopped today, we are committed to a further drop of 0.1—0.2 pH units and it will take thousands of years for the oceans to recover. However, action now can prevent conditions, that are corrosive to calcifying organisms, from becoming more widespread.”
Wonder what that action is? But guess what? More Southern Ocean research is very important.

John Marshall

A few years ago Southampton University tried to show that increasing CO2 dissolved in sea water would cause damage to molluscs shells due to acid dissolution. When this failed they introduced hydrochloric acid into the mix to ensure that their theory was correct. But as we all know surface sea water has a pH between 7.8 and 8.4 which is alkali. deep sea research has also shown that waters surrounding black smokers is around pH 4.5, very acidic, and molluscs survive there very well.

Oakden Wolf’s ref:

Seawater in a vast and deep section of the northeastern Pacific Ocean shows signs of increased acidity brought on by manmade carbon dioxide in the atmosphere–a phenomenon that carries with it far-reaching ecological effects–reports a team of researchers led by a University of South Florida College of Marine Science chemist.

(facepalm three times)
(1) Oceans maintain overall constant acidity (tending towards alkalinity) because they always have supplies of CaCO3 to call on
(2) our emissions are an order of magnitude or two less than the annual CO2 turnover via (a) oceans and (b) plants, so both of those can swallow our emissions easily
(3) these people are ignoring all that geology tells us
How can these people call themselves scientists? They are simply jumping on a bandwagon that is destroying Science, not building it up.
We still need a wiki that can take us straight back to the true basics of Science in a way that is both easy to understand, backed by good references, and armed with checkable answers to “debunks”. Too much for me, but that doesn’t stop it being needed.

Ian W

Ferdinand Engelbeen says:
October 14, 2011 at 10:51 pm
If someone wonders where all the chalk deposits (like the white cliffs of Dover and much of the underground of southern England and West France) all over the world are coming from: The same coccolith species that, according to this study, will suffer from higher CO2. They did deposit it millions of years ago during the Cretaceous (what is in a name!), when global temperatures (warm poles, no ice at all) were much higher than now and CO2 levels 10-12 times higher. The coccoliths deposited layer by layer, hundreds meter thick at last. That is one of the reasons why CO2 levels are much lower today, as much is stored in these layers and not directly available for the atmosphere and plants… See:
http://www.noc.soton.ac.uk/soes/staff/tt/eh/
Jeff D says:
October 14, 2011 at 10:55 pm
Ammonia does not last very long in the oceans. Even in a closed system such as a reef tank ammonia is metabolized so fast as to be almost unmeasurable. I am unsure as to how they anticipate high ammonia levels to even exist.

These and other similar posts can be summed up with – “Selective Ignorance = Funding”
The scientific/academic rigor has been replaced by Grant rigor

Billy Liar

Oakden Wolf says:
October 15, 2011 at 12:02 am
Using pH-sensitive dyes that turn from purple to yellow in more acidic waters, the scientists were able to track changes produced by 15 years of CO2 uptake near the ocean’s surface, Byrne said. In deeper waters, down to about half a mile, both anthropogenic and naturally occurring changes in CO2 and pH were seen. In the very deepest waters, no significant pH changes were seen.
Another joke ‘scientific’ paper?

This study seems based two underlying assumptions. The first is that ammonium competes with nitrate and inhibits its uptake by phytoplankton. I was unaware of this; it is well established (e.g. here – http://www.jstor.org/pss/2838834 ). Fine.
The second assumption that nitrate will become more limited and ammonium will increase – is really a hypothesis. It may not even be their own hypothesis. I find that hard to justify even as a hypothesis.
Let’s see –
1. Levels of nitrate, nitrite and ammonia/ammonium are very low in ocean waters. In fact their concentrations are probably the single most important limiting factor in the growth of the bacteria (and “archea”) that convert ammonia to nitrate (http://www.nature.com/ismej/journal/v5/n6/full/ismej2010191a.html) and nitrate to nitrogen gas. Coastal concentrations of ammonia in the UK are in the range 3-10mg/l (http://www.ukmarinesac.org.uk/activities/water-quality/wq8_1.htm ); in the open ocean <0.2mg/l is more typical.
2. A lot is known about bacterial conversion of ammonia (e.g. http://www.wrights-trainingsite.com/Nitrif1onb.html – the first part is a good summary) and, for example, temperatures <10degC will inhibit. So will decreasing pH. The press release says “acidification inhibits the bacteria that turn ammonium into nitrate.”, but nitrification has a pH optimium of 7.5-8.0, with inhibition at <6.5. From Wikipedia – "Between 1751 and 1994 surface ocean pH is estimated to have decreased from approximately 8.25 to 8.14" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocean_acidification. LOL
3. Ammonia oxiding (to nitrate) archea were only ‘discovered’ and described in the last ~15 years. They are hard to cultivate (very slow growing relative to baceria – growth rates of days rather than minutes to hours for bacteria). Molecular techniques are tell us they are important for ocean nitrification and abundant – http://www.pnas.org/content/103/33/12317.full They are found in a wide range of ecological niches with a broad pH tolerance. Our understanding of their importance to global cycles is in its infancy.
4. Ammonia oxidisers (both types) are chemolithotrophs – they use CO2 as food. Increasing temperature, increasing food (CO2 and ammonia) – a recipe for increased growth and keeping ammonia levels down and nitrate levels up.
Has anyone found a link to the actual paper/abstract in the journal yet? I was unable to, but would like to read the actual abstract to see what is published and what is ‘press release speak’ to make it exciting. This seems a perfect example of making extrapolations that based on suppositions without reasonable working knowledge of another field. The whole study is more “we’re polluting the planet” fear mongering than real investigative thinking.

kim;)

Oakden Wolf (@oakden_wolf) says:
October 15, 2011 at 12:02 am
Thank you for your link 🙂
Do you think that “Baselines” are important in science.?
Why “baselines” are Important in science
The Temperature of Cream that has not reached a freeze temperature [ THE “baseline” ] can not be measured as ICE CREAM. You are measuring “Creams” Temperature – NOT ICE CREAMS Temperature..
It’s called a ‘baseline’.
“Seawater” pH is limited to the range 7.5 to 8.4. and stably constrained.
A 7.0 pH is a “neutral”.
THE “baseline” is below 7.0 for Acid.
A pH of below 7.0 is not measuring “Seawater” – NOW you are measuring ACID.
Without Acid being present [ Below 7.0 pH ] You can not measure MORE Acidification.
Oceans are alkaline and becoming slightly less alkaline -THAT is what is being measured.
“Ocean Acidification” is a PR term meant to illicit fear. When “scientists use this term they are ignoring the “baseline”- and using erroneous terminology to arouse “feelings”.

Julian Flood

That picture above has an interesting feature — you can see stratocumulus cloud above the bloom. DMS? Collapse of E. huxleyi populations, less DMS. Less DMS, less stratocu, more warming, more stable oceans, less nutrient, further collapse of E. hux…..
Etc.
(sigh)
JF

stevo

No matter what the subject, whether it’s biology, physics, chemistry, whatever, you apparently know enough about it to pour scorn on research that somehow offends you.

This is meaningful, a) if it is factual, and b) if it is important that moderate atmospheric CO2 concentration increases are detrimental.
Both these questions remain unanswered.

Verity Jones: “Has anyone found a link to the actual paper/abstract in the journal yet? I was unable to, but would like to read the actual abstract to see what is published and what is ‘press release speak’ to make it exciting. ”
Here is the abstract: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2486.2011.02575.x/abstract
The uncertainities of the paper are well stated in the abstract.
E.g. “Additional experiments conducted under lower nutrient conditions are needed prior to extrapolating our findings to the global oceans”

DEEBEE

Real research would have been to get samples of cocoliths from the ocean bed — date them and see how they have evolved. But that would have run the risk of knocking down the orthodoxy.