Microbes in an Acidic Ocean
October 3, 2014
Ocean acidification is one of the least talked-about effects of climate change. But this slow-moving phenomenon could cause huge problems for marine life that is accustomed to a very specific pH. That’s why this new research project at the Duke Marine Lab could be so important. Oceanographers Zachary Johnson and Dana Hunt will study how microbes respond and adapt to a more acidic environment, both in estuaries and the open ocean, under a grant from the National Science Foundation.
The ocean is the world’s largest greenhouse gas buffer, as ocean water combines with carbon dioxide to make carbonic acid. But this carbon sink comes at a price. Microbes rely on a specific pH to keep their microscopic shells from dissolving. These organisms are important climate buffers in their own right and important to the marine ecosystem, so this research will help determine what the future of ocean microbes might be.
Daniel Lane covers science, engineering, medicine and the environment in North Carolina.