Thursday, May 9, 2013

New paper finds prior claims about effects of ocean "acidification" may be overblown

A paper published today in Global Change Biology finds that prior papers about the alleged effect of ocean "acidification" on marine organisms are overblown because prior research has failed to consider that organisms can adapt over time to pH changes. According to the authors, "nearly all of this work [on the alleged effects of "acidification"] has focused on the effects of future conditions on modern populations, neglecting the role of adaptation."

Natural variation, and the capacity to adapt to ocean acidification in the keystone sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus

Morgan W. Kelly et al

Abstract: A rapidly growing body of literature documents the potential negative effects of CO2-driven ocean acidification (OA) on marine organisms. However, nearly all of this work has focused on the effects of future conditions on modern populations, neglecting the role of adaptation. Rapid evolution can alter demographic responses to environmental change, ultimately affecting the likelihood of population persistence, but the capacity for adaptation will differ among populations and species. Here, we measure the capacity of the ecologically important purple sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus to adapt to OA, using a breeding experiment to estimate additive genetic variance for larval size (an important component of fitness) under future high pCO2/low pH conditions. Although larvae reared under future conditions were smaller than those reared under present-day conditions, we show that there is also abundant genetic variation for body size under elevated pCO2, indicating that this trait can evolve. The observed heritability of size was 0.40±0.32 (95% CI) under low pCO2, and 0.50±0.30 under high pCO2 conditions. Accounting for the observed genetic variation in models of future larval size and demographic rates substantially alters projections of performance for this species in the future ocean. Importantly, our model shows that after incorporating the effects of adaptation, the OA-driven decrease in population growth rate is up to 50% smaller, than that predicted by the “no-adaptation” scenario. Adults used in the experiment were collected from two sites on the coast of the Northeast Pacific that are characterized by different pH regimes, as measured by autonomous sensors. Comparing results between sites, we also found subtle differences in larval size under high pCO2 rearing conditions, consistent with local adaptation to carbonate chemistry in the field. These results suggest that spatially varying selection may help to maintain genetic variation necessary for adaptation to future ocean acidification.

Key points from prior posts on ocean "acidification":
  • Doubling of atmospheric levels would only increase dissolved CO2 in the oceans by .48%
  • There is no reliable evidence that ocean pH is falling
  • Increased CO2 dissolution in the oceans increases calcification of shellfish and coral
  • Corals evolved at a time when CO2 levels were 15 times higher than the present
  • Laboratory experiments on sealife in which hydrochloric acid is added to the water (not CO2) and without the natural buffers present in the ocean is meaningless to determine effects of increased CO2 levels on sealife.
Other recommended resources on "Ocean Acidification":
Global Warming Science
Ocean Acidification: How bad can it get?
Acid Test
Ocean Acidification: Another Failing Scare Story
Acid in the oceans fraud
Ocean acidification: a non-problem
Dying Shellfish Larvae: Story of a Scam
Corals & the Great Barrier Reef
Monterey Bay pH 1995-2004
South China Sea pH
Ocean Acidification: the evil twin of global warming?
'Ocean Acidification' is the new climate scare
Testimony of Dr. John Everett
Speculations beyond the pale of reality
CO2 & pH

Effects of Ocean Acidification on Marine Ecosystems


  1. At last someone with brains! Most sea creatures have hundreds or even millions of progeny. All it takes is the few better suited to sightly lower pH every generation, who then out compete their siblings. Bleeding obvious, but not to the hysterical acidification ankle biters.

    On the other hand, looking at selective adaptation over multiple generations is difficult to fit into the timeframe of a 3 year PhD...

    1. yes and not to mention...

      marine life evolved during periods when CO2 was 10-20 times higher than today

      throwing acid in a fish tank [as most of these studies have done] doesn't come close to simulating the natural buffers in the ocean

      e.g. just one of many examples:

  2. Ocean pH could have "acidified" from pH 8.200 to 8.199 given the increase of CO2





  7. see also

  8. fossil shells formed when CO2 levels were 20 times higher than the present

  9. fossil shells formed when CO2 levels were 20 times higher than the present

  10. so you know how the oceans are becoming more acid? here's the thing: we have a hard time tracking that




  14. updated:


  16. ferd berple says:
    November 14, 2013 at 7:39 am
    Pat says:
    November 13, 2013 at 11:11 pm
    So if CO2 was making the sea acidic and killing the reef, why isn’t the CO2 being mixed by sea currents and “killing off” the surrounding reefs?
    because climate science doesn’t bother to study chemistry. the salt dissolved in the oceans is formally known in chemistry as a buffer. You cannot change a base (the oceans are a base, not an acid) to an acid without also driving the buffer out of solution. As you add CO2 to the oceans, salt rich rocks will form on the bottom of the oceans, which neutralizes the acid. This process will continue until you either run out of CO2 or run out of salt in the ocean. the enormous volume of dissolved salts makes the latter physically impossible.

  17. ferd berple says:
    November 14, 2013 at 8:00 am

    The enormous deposits of marine limestone worldwide are evidence of the physical process by which the oceans turn CO2 into rock, and thereby neutralize the ability of CO2 to acidify the oceans. limestone is fossilized CO2.

    climate science observes that acid dissolves limestone, so they propose that adding CO2 to the oceans will dissolve limestone. Nothing could be further from the truth. Limestone contains CO2. Adding CO2 to the oceans must increase the precipitation of limestone, until such time as the oceans run out of calcium salts. Over billions of years, with CO2 levels much higher than present, that has never happened.




  21. CO2 is also a complex chemical, forming carbonic acid in the atmosphere with rain and in its solution into the ocean. Once in the water the acid dissociates into three species:

    CO2 +;H2O => H2CO3 => H^+ + HCO3^- => 2nd H^+ + CO3^-2

    Now in seawater we have Ca^++ (and other cations which reacts which forms both inorganic limestone precipitate and biologically produced CaCO3 in shells (possibly through the bicarbonate stage), etc. This is sequestered CO2. Also, probably C14 is probably taken up by algae, plankton and the like, similar to the absorption by land plants. Go for the model where the sinks INCREASE their intake by sequestration.

  22. DocMartyn says:
    December 12, 2013 at 3:01 pm
    “Ferdinand Engelbeen says:

    According to Henry’s law, an increase of 1°C of the total ocean surface will increase the pCO2 of the ocean surface with 17 μatm. An increase with 17 μatm (=17 ppmv) in the atmosphere is enough to compensate for the temperature increase.”

    Henry’s law does not apply as CO2/DIC is in disequilibrium with both the atmosphere and depths; the system is NOT at equilibrium

    Look at the depth profile of DIC, the surface (where CO2 fixation occurs) is at 1.9 mM and lower down it tops 2.3 mM. This profile is steepest where the oceans support abundant life.

  23. philincalifornia says:
    December 13, 2013 at 5:07 am
    phlogiston says:
    December 13, 2013 at 2:28 am

    Everyone here who talks about recycling shows that they don’t understand the first thing about a kinetic measurement.

    So the fact that bomb 14CO2 is not returned from sea to atmosphere serves only to underpin the validity of this measurement of 5 year t1/2 removal of CO2 from the atmosphere.

    Amen to that too.

    I think the resistance to assimilating the actual, real data, such resistance manifesting itself as pages and pages of mental masturbation, is because plugging in that real number for the half-life (probably the most important number of all) destroys the mass balance argument and many other such preconceived conclusion-based arguments.

    Strange, because it’s not a big secret that most preconceived conclusion-based arguments end up in the flushed toilet of science history.

    This is chemical kinetics 101. The radiotracer “experiment” is giving a kinetic rate constant of a one way reaction in an albeit complex and reversible reaction. Use it.

  24. adaptation of coral reefs:




  28. NikFromNYC says:
    March 6, 2014 at 6:12 am
    The intuitive way to understand how oceans eat carbon dioxide is to appreciate that though CO2 is at the bottom of a stairway metabolically, in a world of highly reactive O2 that drives animal life all that biological oxidation using plant created O2 actually renders carbon highly reactive in turn so that its two double bonds between C and O in CO2 make it quite receptive to forming a bonded partnership with lowly old water itself:

    H-O-H + O=C=O -> O=C(OH)2 -> CO3– + 2H+

    As this newly formed mild (“carbonic”) acid presents a carbonate anion (–) into the calcium cation (++) rich oceans and these two unhappily raw doubly charged ions happen to fit together very well into a simple crystal that is very stable and thus insoluble, it crashes out of solution to form dense rocks that sink.

  29. Professor of oceanography explains why acidification concerns overblown:



  32. squid2112 | August 23, 2014 at 9:51 am |

    You do realize that you could dissolve 100% of the atmospheric CO2 into the oceans and you would be hard pressed to measure a change in pH, don’t you?

    Less than 3m of ocean contain more CO2 than all of the atmosphere above it, and the average depth of our oceans is 4km! Our oceans contain more than 4000x’s the concentration of CO2 than our atmosphere, and are buffered by millions of square miles of limestone and other carbon absorbing minerals. This “Ocean Acidification” nonsense is a non-starter and simply displays utter ignorance of the fools touting it.

  33. DOWNLOAD my ESEF Vol. 1 Chapter (PDF approx. 200 kbytes):

    Segalstad, T. V. 1996: The distribution of CO2 between atmosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere; minimal influence from anthropogenic CO2 on the global "Greenhouse Effect". In Emsley, J. (Ed.): The Global Warming Debate. The Report of the European Science and Environment Forum. Bourne Press Ltd., Bournemouth, Dorset, U.K. (ISBN 0952773406), pp. 41-50.
    DOWNLOAD my ESEF Vol 2 Chapter (PDF approx. 500 kbytes):

    Segalstad, T. V. 1998: Carbon cycle modelling and the residence time of natural and anthropogenic atmospheric CO2: on the construction of the "Greenhouse Effect Global Warming" dogma. In Bate, R. (Ed.): Global warming: the continuing debate. ESEF, Cambridge, U.K. (ISBN 0952773422), pp. 184-219.

  34. Acidification claims falsified: