Congratulations to Helen Findlay, Laura Wicks, Frances Hopkins and Matthew P. Humphreys on all their articles in the latest issue (Summer 2013) of Ocean Challenge. They are providing a very nice overview of Ocean Acidification research as well as coverage of the four UKOA cruises.Read the articles here
One of our volunteers and helpers at the Winchester Science Festival was the journalist and press officer Maria Elena Ribezzo. Her role was double, a volunteer as well as a correspondent for Scientists on the Road. Below Maria Elena’s thoughts of our day at Winchester.
From the 20th to the 22th of July, the beautiful medieval town of Winchester has hosted the annual Science Festival. The University of Southampton’s ‘Bringing Research to Life’ Roadshow was in the Discovery Centre with hands-on interactive science, showcasing different areas of research throughout the Festival.
DNA extraction, engineering design, Bio-energy generated from waste, new technologies. Topics covered were many: life sciences, neuro-psychology, maths and physics, sustainability, computing, space and engineering.
Approximately one quarter of carbon dioxide emitted by humans in the air is absorbed by the ocean. This alters the chemical composition of the sea: a more acidic water threatens the life conditions of organisms whose skeletons or cells are made of calcium carbonate, such as phytoplankton, snails, mussels or, more evident to the human eye, corals. In order to explain children how Ocean Acidification works, we used red cabbage juice, a safe acid/base indicator which reacts in a clear manner to the introduction of carbon dioxide by changing colour.
The young scientists, equipped with big protective goggles, gloves and lab coats, faced the terrible smell of cabbage juice and blew with a straw into test tubes, to see how CO2 emitted by their breath influenced the colour of the liquid. The carbon dioxide combines with the water in the cabbage juice to form carbonic acid, causing the pH of the solution to drop and the cabbage juice to turn pink. In order to accelerate the process, we also provided them with some dried ice. “Wow, it’s a cold volcano!” so one young girl commented our experiment with wide amazed eyes .
The aim of the festival was to put in contact new generation with the world of science, to promote science education and science communication. At the end of the day, it took us just one young girl’s enthusiastic comment to understand we had reached our goal. With that cold volcano in her hands, the 10-year old girl said to the parents: “I want to be a scientist!
If you want to become a Scientist on the Road and participate in our events email Athena firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us here
Titled “Pan genome of the phytoplankton Emiliania drives its global distribution“, the paper compares the reference genome of one strain of Emiliana huxleyi to sequences from 13 other strains. The scientists found a pan genome composed of a set of core genes, along with genes that were unequally distributed between different strains. The findings indicate extensive genome variability and demonstrate that E. huxleyi, which has long been considered a single species, harbours extensive genome variability reflected in different metabolic repertoires.
The findings also underpin the capacity of E. huxleyi to thrive both in habitats ranging from the equator to the subarctic and to form large-scaleepisodic blooms under a wide variety of environmental conditions.Betsy A. Read, et al “Pan genome of the phytoplankton Emiliania drives its global distribution” Nature doi:10.1038/nature12221
The reference genome of a marine phytoplankton called Emiliania huxleyi is reported this week in Nature. E. huxleyi has a direct influence on the global carbon cycle, and the genomic plasticity of this species may provide insight into speciation and how organisms adapt to global climate change.
E. huxleyi can thrive in a range of dramatically different habitats, and have the capacity to form large-scale blooms from the equator to the subarctic. By comparing the reference genome of one strain of E. huxleyi to sequences from 13 other strains, Betsy Read and colleagues found a pan genome composed of a set of core genes, along with genes that were unequally distributed between different strains. The findings indicate extensive genome variability reflected in different metabolic repertoires, explaining in part how E. huxleyi has adapted to a wide variety of environments. E. huxleyi was thought to be a single species, but the high level of diversity uncovered in this study indicates a single strain is unlikely to be typical or representative of all strains.
A stunningly blue and calm Arctic reflection of sea and sky divided by distant bright white ice and interrupted by ripples created by the ship. Taken June 15, 2012, on the RRS James Clark Ross in the Arctic sea ice between Svalbard and Greenland.
Source: Ocean Exploration 2020
Helen is a PhD student at the National Oceanography Centre studying phytoplankton community structure and carbon export. She shares, for some time now, her ZEISS LEO 1450VP SEM imaging via Twitter; you can actually follow her work on Twitter with hashtag #PhytoplanktonID.
This is her Diatom and Coccolithophores SEM imaging Facebook Page, where you can have a look at some very beautiful images and share with the rest of the world your perfect ZEISS moments!
21 May 2013, by Harriet Jarlett – Planet Earth Online
Ocean acidification is damaging some marine species while others thrive, say scientists.
The study, published in PLoS One found that different species react in different ways to changes in their environment. As carbon dioxide emissions dissolve in seawater they lower the pH of the oceans making them more acidic and more corrosive to shells.
Foraminifera and coccoliths, which are small shelled plankton and algae, appear to be surviving remarkably well in the more acidic conditions. But numbers of pteropods and bivalves – such as mussels, clams and oysters – are falling.
‘Ecologically, some species are soaring, whilst others are crashing out of the system,’ says Professor Jason Hall-Spencer, of Plymouth University, who co-authored the paper.
The scientists are unsure whether this drop in certain species is because of changing pH levels, or whether it is due to a combination of stress factors like warming, overfishing and eutrophication -which results from a build up of excess nutrients in water.
‘We found no statistical connection between the abundance of calcifying plankton and the changes in pH. If pH is affecting calcifying plankton in the area then its effect is being masked by other climatic effects. What we do know is that laboratory experiments have shown pH changes affect pteropods adversely,’ he says.
‘The aragonite skeleton of pteropods dissolves more easily in corrosive waters than the low-magnesium calcite that typifies many clams and other molluscs,’ explains Hall-Spencer. ‘But now we think that it’s not as simple as that. It depends partly on how stressed organisms are by other factors, such as lack of food. It also depends on their shape and their ability to protect their skeletons.’
It is possible that the rising levels of CO2 are boosting coccolith numbers by causing them to photosynthesise more and produce more energy.
The scientists used a database collected by the Sir Alaistair Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science, which has been continuously recording levels of plankton in the North Sea since 1931. But, despite being the best database available, it fails to monitor chemical changes, like acid levels, alongside ecological ones, like shifts in pteropod numbers.
Plankton sits at the bottom of the food chains, where it underpins all of our marine food sources. So if numbers drop significantly it could lead to food shortages, particularly in countries where people eat lots of seafood and fish.
Without improved monitoring , researchers say they will struggle to accurately test the consequences of ocean acidification.
‘CO2 is driving down the pH of water, but finding evidence for that and its ecological effects is proving tricky. Most work is done in the lab, so there’s not much good long term data on changes in the water,’ says Hall-Spencer.
Coccoliths appear to be able to cope with recent changes to their environment, the scientists don’t know how they will fare in the future.
‘We need an observing network to keep track of the effects of ocean acidification both chemically and biologically. Ecosystems are going to change, and if we want to protect fisheries, food sources and jobs we need to be forewarned,’ he concludes.
Read more: Beare D, McQuatters-Gollop A, van der Hammen T, Machiels M, Teoh SJ, et al. (2013) Long-Term Trends in Calcifying Plankton and pH in the North Sea. PLoS ONE 8(5): e61175. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0061175
Now you can read online all three scientific journals of the UKOA cruises in full, page by page, and it is exactly the same as the print edition.
First UKOA Cruise in the NW European Seas – June / July 2011
Read the blog here
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Second UKOA Cruise in the Arctic – June / July 2012
UKOA Arctic Cruise website
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Third UKOA Cruise in the Southern Seas January /February 2013
UKOA Antarctic Cruise website
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Press Release: Scripps Institution of Oceanography / University of California, San Diego
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
For the first time in human history, concentrations of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) could rise above 400 parts per million (ppm) for sustained lengths of time throughout much of the Northern Hemisphere as soon as May 2013.
To provide a resource for understanding the implications of rising CO2 levels, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego is providing daily updates of the “Keeling Curve,” the record of atmospheric CO2 measured at Hawaii’s Mauna Loa. These iconic measurements, begun by Charles David (Dave) Keeling, a world-leading authority on atmospheric greenhouse gas accumulation and Scripps climate science pioneer, comprise the longest continuous record of CO2 in the world, starting from 316 ppm in March 1958 and approaching 400 ppm today with a familiar saw-tooth pattern. For the past 800,000 years, CO2 levels never exceeded 300 parts per million.
“I wish it weren’t true, but it looks like the world is going to blow through the 400-ppm level without losing a beat,” said Scripps geophysicist Ralph Keeling, who has taken over the Keeling Curve measurement from his late father. “At this pace we’ll hit 450 ppm within a few decades.”
The website keelingcurve.ucsd.edu offers background information about how CO2 is measured, the history of the Keeling Curve, and resources from other organizations on the current state of climate. An accompanying Twitter feed, @keeling_curve, also provides followers with the most recent Keeling Curve CO2 reading in a daily tweet.
Dave Keeling began recording CO2 data at Mauna Loa and other locations after developing an ultraprecise measurement device known as a manometer. Ralph Keeling took over the program in 2005 and also heads a program at Scripps to measure changes in atmospheric oxygen. The Scripps O2 and CO2 programs make measurements of CO2 and other gases at remote locations around the world, including Antarctica, Tasmania, and northern Alaska. The Scripps programs are complementary to many other programs now measuring CO2 and other greenhouse gases worldwide.
Scientists estimate that the last time CO2 was as high as 400 ppm was probably the Pliocene epoch, between 3.2 million and 5 million years ago, when Earth’s climate was much warmer than today. CO2 was around 280 ppm before the Industrial Revolution, when humans first began releasing large amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels. By the time Dave Keeling began measurements in 1958, CO2 had already risen from 280 to 316 ppm. The rate of rise of CO2 over the past century is unprecedented; there is no known period in geologic history when such high rates have been found. The continuous rise is a direct consequence of society’s heavy reliance on fossil fuels for energy.
Each year, the concentration of CO2 at Mauna Loa rises and falls in a sawtooth fashion, with the next year higher than the year before. The peak of the sawtooth typically comes in May. If CO2 levels don’t top 400 ppm in May 2013, they almost certainly will next year, Keeling said.
“The 400-ppm threshold is a sobering milestone, and should serve as a wake up call for all of us to support clean energy technology and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, before it’s too late for our children and grandchildren,” said Tim Lueker, an oceanographer and carbon cycle researcher who is a longtime member of the Scripps CO2 Group.