Ocean Community News
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TROUBLE IN PARADISE: OCEAN ACIDIFICATION THIS WAY COMES
Mo’orea, it’s called ─ this island in French Polynesia that’s been dubbed the most beautiful island in the world. Here Tahitian breezes dance across crystal blue waters and beneath the tropical seas lies a necklace of coral reefs that encircles Mo’orea like a string of brightly colored jewels. Extensive reefs of a coral named Porites and other species form atolls, or reefs that ring Mo’orea’s lagoons. Porites are colonial corals, also known as Scleractinians, found in shallow tropical waters throughout the Indo-Pacific and Caribbean regions. Think tropical reef and your mind’s eye is likely seeing Porites. These corals and other calcifying marine life, such as coralline algae, are also the world’s primary reef-builders. And therein lies the trouble. The seas in which these calcifying species dwell are turning acidic, their pH slowly dropping as Earth’s oceans acidify in response to increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. As atmospheric carbon rises in response to human-caused carbon dioxide emissions, carbon in the ocean goes up in tandem. Marine life that depends on calcium carbonate can no longer form shells or, in the case of coral reefs, skeletons. Such marine life are found in waters that are more basic with a higher pH rather than a lower pH, which is more acidic. Porites reefs, say scientists Peter Edmunds and Robert Carpenter of California State University at Northridge, are among the most sensitive of all corals. Carpenter and Edmunds are two of the lead scientists at the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Mo’orea Coral Reef Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) site, one of 26 such LTER sites around the globe. Mo’orea is the only coral reef site in NSF’s LTER network. It is funded by NSF’s Divisions of Ocean Sciences and Environmental Biology. To study the effects of ocean acidification on corals and other calcifying organisms, the biologists have been awarded an NSF SEES (Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability) Ocean Acidification grant. To read the entire National Science Foundation article, click here.
CHEMICAL MEASUREMENTS CONFIRM OFFICIAL ESTIMATE OF GULF OIL SPILL RATE
New National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)-led analysis shows gases and oil in three chemically different mixtures deep underwater, in the surface slick, in the air. By combining detailed chemical measurements in the deep ocean, in the oil slick, and in the air, NOAA scientists and academic colleagues have independently estimated how fast gases and oil were leaking during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. To read the entire article, click here.
CAYMAN VENTS ARE THE WORLD’S HOTTEST
The world’s deepest known volcanic vents are also the hottest, a UK-led expedition has indicated. The seafloor vents are located 5km below the surface of the Caribbean, in the Cayman Trough. The researchers say the structures are shooting jets of mineral-rich water more than a kilometer into the ocean above. The vents’ features suggest the water is warmer than 450C – hot enough to melt lead. Nevertheless, the springs are teeming with new species, including a type of pale shrimp with a light sensing organ on its back. Details of the research have been published in the journal Nature Communications. To read the entire BBC article, click here.
OCTOPUSES EDIT PROTEINS TO BEAT THE COLD
An octopus dwelling in the frigid waters of the Antarctic doesn’t wear gloves on its tentacles, but it has found another way to endure the cold. A new study shows that this animal uses a trick called RNA editing to customize crucial nervous system proteins to work at low temperatures. The paper is the first to reveal that RNA editing, not just changes to a specific gene, can lead to adaptations. Low temperatures hamper certain proteins that allow the nervous system to send signals. When a nerve cell fires, protein channels in its membrane open or close to allow various ions in or out. And when the electrical charge across the cell membrane returns to normal, the ion channels that let potassium ions out shut. But frigid temperatures can delay the potassium channels’ closing, hindering the neuron’s ability to fire again. So researchers hypothesized that species inhabiting frigid climates have modified their potassium channels so they work better in the cold. To read the entire article, click here.
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