New research finds carbon dioxide dissolves starfish

starfish carbon dioxide climate change

Scientists believe carbon dioxide from industry and land run off could cause irreparable damage to marine ecosystems. Their warning came after tests found acute levels of the gas cause starfish to dissolve.

A team of marine scientists made the discovery during a four-day experiment at Loch Sween on Scotland’s west coast. They wanted to find out how whole marine ecosystems respond to short-term carbon dioxide exposure.

Previously, tests had focused on the effect high levels of the gas had on individual plants or animals, leaving a gap in knowledge about how whole marine ecosystems respond to sudden influxes of carbon dioxide.

Researchers from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh and Glasgow University pumped water enriched with carbon dioxide into chambers placed over the coralline algal ecosystem and monitored the community’s response before, during and after exposure.

The experiment revealed acute exposure led to net dissolution, meaning calcified organisms such as the coralline algae and starfish were dissolving.

Heidi Burdett, Heriot-Watt University research fellow, said: “We found that there was a rapid, community-level shift to net dissolution, meaning that within that community, the skeletons of calcifying organisms like starfish and coralline algae were dissolving.

“If you think of pulses of carbon dioxide being carried on the tide to a particular site, it’s like a flash flood of carbon dioxide.

“Our continued monitoring of the site directly after the carbon dioxide exposure found recovery was comparably slow, which raises concern about the ability of these systems to ‘bounce back’ after repeated acute carbon dioxide events.”

Ms Burdett and her team believe more research is necessary but that carbon dioxide exposure should be taken into account by policymakers.

The research was published in the Marine Progress Ecology Series.

Read the full article at BBC News.

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