Evolution at Sea: Phytoplankton Can Adapt to Ocean Acidification
Fossil fuel derived carbon dioxide has a serious impact on global climate but also a disturbing effect on the oceans, know as the other CO2 problem. When CO2 dissolves in seawater it forms carbonic acid and results in a drop in pH, the oceans acidify. A wealth of short-term experiments has shown that calcifying organisms, such as corals, clams and snails, but also micron-size phytoplankton are affected by ocean acidification. The potential for organisms to cope with acidified oceanic conditions via evolutionary adaptations has so far been unresolved.
“With this study we have shown for the fist time that evolutionary processes may have the potential to act on climate change relevant time scales and thereby mitigate negative effects of ongoing ocean acidification,” said evolutionary biologist Thorsten Reusch, adding, “these findings emphasize the need for a consideration of evolutionary processes in future assessment studies on the biological consequences of global change.”