Article

Anthropogenic ocean acidification over the twenty-first century and its impact on calcifying organisms

  • Nature volume 437, pages 681686 (29 September 2005)
  • doi:10.1038/nature04095
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Abstract

Today's surface ocean is saturated with respect to calcium carbonate, but increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations are reducing ocean pH and carbonate ion concentrations, and thus the level of calcium carbonate saturation. Experimental evidence suggests that if these trends continue, key marine organisms—such as corals and some plankton—will have difficulty maintaining their external calcium carbonate skeletons. Here we use 13 models of the ocean–carbon cycle to assess calcium carbonate saturation under the IS92a ‘business-as-usual’ scenario for future emissions of anthropogenic carbon dioxide. In our projections, Southern Ocean surface waters will begin to become undersaturated with respect to aragonite, a metastable form of calcium carbonate, by the year 2050. By 2100, this undersaturation could extend throughout the entire Southern Ocean and into the subarctic Pacific Ocean. When live pteropods were exposed to our predicted level of undersaturation during a two-day shipboard experiment, their aragonite shells showed notable dissolution. Our findings indicate that conditions detrimental to high-latitude ecosystems could develop within decades, not centuries as suggested previously.

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Acknowledgements

We thank M. Gehlen for discussions, and J.-M. Epitalon, P. Brockmann and the Ferret developers for help with analysis. All but the climate simulations were made as part of the OCMIP project, which was launched in 1995 by the Global Analysis, Integration and Modelling (GAIM) Task Force of the International Geosphere–Biosphere Programme (IGBP) with funding from NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration). OCMIP-2 was supported by the European Union Global Ocean Storage of Anthropogenic Carbon (EU GOSAC) project and the United States JGOFS Synthesis and Modeling Project funded through NASA. The interannual simulation was supported by the EU Northern Ocean Carbon Exchange Study (NOCES) project, which is part of OCMIP-3.

Author information

Author notes

    • Patrick Monfray
    • , Keith B. Rodgers
    •  & Ian J. Totterdell

    †Present addresses: Laboratoire d'Etudes en Géophysique et Océanographie Spatiales, UMR 5566 CNES-CNRS-IRD-UPS, F-31401 Toulouse, France (P.M.); AOS Program, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544-0710, USA (K.B.R.); The Met Office, Hadley Centre, FitzRoy Road, Exeter EX1 3PB, UK (I.J.T.)

Affiliations

  1. Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement, UMR CEA-CNRS, CEA Saclay, F-91191 Gif-sur-Yvette, France

    • James C. Orr
    • , Laurent Bopp
    • , Patrick Monfray
    •  & Keith B. Rodgers
  2. Department of Biological Sciences, California State University San Marcos, San Marcos, California 92096-0001, USA

    • Victoria J. Fabry
  3. Laboratoire d'Océanographie et du Climat: Expérimentations et Approches Numériques (LOCEAN), Centre IRD de Bretagne, F-29280 Plouzané, France

    • Olivier Aumont
  4. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543-1543, USA

    • Scott C. Doney
  5. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)/Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, Seattle, Washington 98115-6349, USA

    • Richard A. Feely
    •  & Christopher L. Sabine
  6. NOAA/Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton, New Jersey 08542, USA

    • Anand Gnanadesikan
  7. Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, UCLA, Los Angeles, California 90095-4996, USA

    • Nicolas Gruber
    •  & Gian-Kasper Plattner
  8. Frontier Research Center for Global Change, Yokohama 236-0001, Japan

    • Akio Ishida
    •  & Yasuhiro Yamanaka
  9. Climate and Environmental Physics, Physics Institute, University of Bern, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland

    • Fortunat Joos
    •  & Gian-Kasper Plattner
  10. Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (AOS) Program, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544-0710, USA

    • Robert M. Key
    • , Jorge L. Sarmiento
    •  & Richard D. Slater
  11. National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado 80307-3000, USA

    • Keith Lindsay
  12. Max Planck Institut für Meteorologie, D-20146 Hamburg, Germany

    • Ernst Maier-Reimer
  13. CSIRO Marine Research and Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems CRC, Hobart, Tasmania 7001, Australia

    • Richard Matear
  14. Astrophysics and Geophysics Institute, University of Liege, B-4000 Liege, Belgium

    • Anne Mouchet
  15. Department of Meteorology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802-5013, USA

    • Raymond G. Najjar
  16. LOCEAN, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, F-75252 Paris, France

    • Keith B. Rodgers
  17. Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, D-27515 Bremerhaven, Germany

    • Reiner Schlitzer
    •  & Marie-France Weirig
  18. National Oceanography Centre Southampton, Southampton SO14 3ZH, UK

    • Ian J. Totterdell
    •  & Andrew Yool

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Competing interests

Reprints and permissions information is available at npg.nature.com/reprintsandpermissions. The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to James C. Orr.

Supplementary information

PDF files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Notes

    Supplementary Methods, uncertainties, Supplementary Table, Supplementary Figures S1–S5 and additional references

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