Can Seagrass Help Fight Ocean Acidification?

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Seagrass meadows could play a limited, localized role in alleviating ocean acidification in coastal ecosystems, according to new work led by Carnegie’s David Koweek and including Carnegie’s Ken Caldeira and published in Ecological Applications.

When coal, oil, or gas is burned, the resulting carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere where it is the driving force behind global climate change. But this atmospheric carbon dioxide is also absorbed into the ocean where chemical reactions with the seawater produce carbonic acid, which is corrosive to marine life, particularly to organisms like mussels and oysters that construct their shells and exoskeletons out of calcium carbonate.

Seagrasses provide an important source of food and shelter for marine animals, help fight erosion of the sediments that form the sea bed, and filter bacterial pathogens from the water. They also take up carbon dioxide as part of their daytime photosynthetic activity.

The paper’s other co-authors are: Richard Zimmerman of Old Dominion University; Kathryn Hewett, Brian Gaylord, and John. J. Stachowicz of University of California Davis; Sarah Giddings of University of California San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography; Kerry Nickols of California State University Northridge; Jennifer Ruesink of University of Washington; and Yuichiro Takeshita of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.

Read the article here.