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In focus: ocean acidification – the evil twin of climate warming

Around half of the carbon dioxide volume discharged into the atmosphere through exhaust pipes and chimney stacks over the past two hundred years has been absorbed by the oceans - but not without consequence. The carbon dioxide dissolves in the water, creating carbonic acid. This reduces the pH value of the seawater and makes the oceans more acidic. You will learn here about the consequences this has on the inhabitants of the oceans and on humans and how scientists of the Alfred Wegener Institute are researching this subject area.

The most recent posts are at the bottom of this page.


 

Ocean acidification – an introduction

For twenty years now scientists at the Alfred Wegener Institute have been investigating how the environment alters when the carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere rises. They recognised at an early date that high carbon dioxide content in the air also impacts the oceans, causing the seas to become more acidic. Read all about ocean acidification and how scientists of the AWI are investigating its effects here.

Published: April 2013


 

Corals: a research dive in the reef

Corals are amongst those sea dwellers to be the most greatly affected by rising temperatures and the falling pH value of the oceans. Warmer and more acidic seawater causes them to lose their colourful appearance and reduces the energy available to develop their exoskeleton. Whether they can adapt quickly enough to the new living conditions and which species have the best chances of survival is currently being explored by scientists of the Alfred Wegener Institute in the waters of Thailand and Papua-New Guinea. Accompany the researchers in our pictures gallery on one of their research dives.

Published: April 2013


 

Fish: anything but insensitive

Scientists long assumed that ocean acidification had little impact on more highly developed organisms such as fish. However, more recent research results prove the opposite: fish react sensitively to acidic water primarily at the beginning of their lives – the very time their development is in full swing. Speaking in an interview, Dr Felix Mark explains the effects this can have and whether all fish are affected to the same extent.

Published: April 2013


 

Fish: a view inside

What goes through a fish’s head when it swims through acidic water? This question has been occupying the biologist Matthias Schmidt for some time. As part of his doctorate at the Alfred Wegener Institute he is investigating how the blood flow of a fish alters as the carbon dioxide concentration increases in the water. With the assistance of magnetic resonance imaging he is able to peer into the workings of a fish. Learn here what he sees there and how a fish can be examined using magnetic resonance imaging.

Published: April 2013


 


Coralline algae: all a question of the light

Coralline algae are eight times smaller than the thickness of a human hair. Nevertheless, they play a large role in the global carbon cycle. The reason for this is that their lime shells favour the transport of carbon into the depths of the ocean. In this way, they permit more carbon to be deposited on the bed of the oceans. But what happens if the ocean acidification prevents the coralline algae from building their shells as usual? Dr Sebastian Rokitta shows and explains in an audio slideshow which impacts the acidic water can have on the coralline algae and what this can mean for the carbon cycle. Click here to go to the audio slide show.

Published: April 2013


 

Tracing Ocean Acidification - An expedition to the Arctic

In August 2013 six scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute set out for the Arctic. They want to find out, if fish in the Arctic Ocean already are affected by ocean acidification. On board the AWI research vessel Heincke they head for the coast of Spitsbergen, where they hope to catch juvenile Atlantic cod and polar cod. One of their goals is to investigate the distribution of polar cod and Atlantic cod. There over the scientists want to bring back the fish alive to Bremerhaven, because it is only in the laboratories that they can analyse how the two related fishes react to the decreasing pH in the Arctic waters. To read more about the expedition, click here.

Published: November 2013


 

How copepods withstand ocean acidification

They are small, inconspicuous – and extremely important for the food web in the sea. That’s why biologist Dr. Barbara Niehoff at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research is investigating how copepods are able to survive in acidic water. Up to now her experiments have indicated that the small crustaceans she is preoccupied with are genuine born survivors. However, what makes the tiny animals so robust? And could acidification possibly become a threat for them in an indirect manner? Read full article here.

Published: September 2014


 

Facts on Ocean Acidification: Knowledge at a Glance

Never before have so many scientists conducted research on what impacts the declining pH value of seawater has on animals and plants in the ocean. Please find a summary of their major research results from the past years here

Published: September 2014


 

"Ocean acidification is the evil little brother of global warming" - An interview with Dr Felix Mark

Dr Felix Mark from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research has been studying how ocean acidification impacts fish and other ocean dwellers for five years. Now he has compiled present-day knowledge for the current report of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) together with colleagues from all over the world. In the interview the eco-physiologist talks about what science has accomplished in the past years and what kind of research is still necessary in the coming years. Read more...

Published: September 2014


 

Facts Sheets about Ocean Acidification

Learn more about ocean acidification. Newest research results from all over the world and policy relevant information described and compiled in a range of fact sheets. Click here to view the fact sheets.

Updated: September 2014


 
 

Movie: The Ocean - A Changing Ecosystem

Three AWI short documentaries show, which changes in the ocean scientists are already observing today, but also which effects they expect in future. Join marine biologist Felix Mark on an expedition to the Arctic, follow biogeochemist on a journey into the past and share IPCC coordinating lead author Hans-Otto Pörtner’s knowledge on how the ocean is doing. To view the movies click here.

 



 
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