Letter abstract


Nature Geoscience 3, 196 - 200 (2010)
Published online: 14 February 2010 | doi:10.1038/ngeo755

Subject Categories: Biogeochemistry | Climate science | Palaeoclimate and palaeoceanography

Past constraints on the vulnerability of marine calcifiers to massive carbon dioxide release

Andy Ridgwell1 & Daniela N. Schmidt2

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Increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in sea water are driving a progressive acidification of the ocean1. Although the associated changes in the carbonate chemistry of surface and deep waters may adversely affect marine calcifying organisms2, 3, 4, current experiments do not always produce consistent results for a given species5. Ocean sediments record past biological responses to transient greenhouse warming and ocean acidification. During the Palaeocene–Eocene thermal maximum, for example, the biodiversity of benthic calcifying organisms decreased markedly6, 7, whereas extinctions of surface dwellers were very limited8, 9. Here we use the Earth system model GENIE-1 to simulate and compare directly past and present environmental changes in the marine realm. In our simulation of future ocean conditions, we find an undersaturation with respect to carbonate in the deep ocean that exceeds that experienced during the Palaeocene–Eocene thermal maximum and could endanger calcifying organisms. Furthermore, our simulations show higher rates of environmental change at the surface for the future than the Palaeocene–Eocene thermal maximum, which could potentially challenge the ability of plankton to adapt.

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  1. School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, University Road, Bristol BS8 1SS, UK
  2. Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1RJ, UK

Correspondence to: Andy Ridgwell1 e-mail: andy@seao2.org



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