Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

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

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.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Increasing atmospheric CO2 and decreasing surface ocean pH and [CO32-].
Figure 2: The aragonite saturation state in the year 2100 as indicated by Δ[CO32-]A.
Figure 3: Climate-induced changes in surface [CO32-].
Figure 4: Key surface carbonate chemistry variables as a function of p CO 2 .
Figure 5: Average surface [CO32-] in the Southern Ocean under various scenarios.
Figure 6: Shell dissolution in a live pteropod.

References

  1. 1

    Haugan, P. M. & Drange, H. Effects of CO2 on the ocean environment. Energy Convers. Mgmt 37, 1019–1022 (1996)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Brewer, P. G. Ocean chemistry of the fossil fuel CO2 signal: the haline signal of “business as usual”. Geophys. Res. Lett. 24, 1367–1369 (1997)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Gattuso, J.-P., Frankignoulle, M., Bourge, I., Romaine, S. & Buddemeier, R. W. Effect of calcium carbonate saturation of seawater on coral calcification. Glob. Planet. Change 18, 37–46 (1998)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Kleypas, J. A. et al. Geochemical consequences of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide on coral reefs. Science 284, 118–120 (1999)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Langdon, C. et al. Effect of elevated CO2 on the community metabolism of an experimental coral reef. Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles 17, 1011, doi:10.1029/2002GB001941 (2003)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Riebesell, U. et al. Reduced calcification of marine plankton in response to increased atmospheric CO2 . Nature 407, 364–367 (2000)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Zondervan, I., Zeebe, R., Rost, B. & Riebesell, U. Decreasing marine biogenic calcification: A negative feedback on rising atmospheric pCO2 . Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles 15, 507–516 (2001)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    Broecker, W. S. & Peng, T.-H. Fate of fossil fuel carbon dioxide and the global carbon budget. Science 206, 409–418 (1979)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    Feely, R. A. et al. The impact of anthropogenic CO2 on the CaCO3 system in the oceans. Science 305, 362–366 (2004)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10

    Caldeira, K. & Wickett, M. E. Anthropogenic carbon and ocean pH. Nature 425, 365 (2003)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11

    Urban-Rich, J., Dagg, M. & Peterson, J. Copepod grazing on phytoplankton in the Pacific sector of the Antarctic Polar Front. Deep-Sea Res. II 48, 4223–4246 (2001)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12

    Kobayashi, H. A. Growth cycle and related vertical distribution of the thecosomatous pteropod Spiratella “Limacina” helicina in the central Arctic Ocean. Mar. Biol. 26, 295–301 (1974)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13

    Pakhomov, E. A., Verheye, H. M., Atkinson, A., Laubscher, R. K. & Taunton-Clark, J. Structure and grazing impact of the mesozooplankton community during late summer 1994 near South Georgia, Antarctica. Polar Biol. 18, 180–192 (1997)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14

    Fabry, V. J. Aragonite production by pteropod molluscs in the subarctic Pacific. Deep-Sea Res. I 36, 1735–1751 (1989)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15

    Bathmann, U., Noji, T. T. & von Bodungen, B. Sedimentation of pteropods in the Norwegian Sea in autumn. Deep-Sea Res. 38, 1341–1360 (1991)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16

    Key, R. M. et al. A global ocean carbon climatology: Results from Global Data Analysis Project (GLODAP). Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles 18, 4031, doi:10.1029/2004GB002247 (2004)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17

    Sabine, C. L. et al. The ocean sink for anthropogenic CO2 . Science 305, 367–370 (2004)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18

    Gruber, N. Anthropogenic CO2 in the Atlantic Ocean. Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles 12, 165–191 (1998)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19

    Sarmiento, J. L., Orr, J. C. & Siegenthaler, U. A perturbation simulation of CO2 uptake in an ocean general circulation model. J. Geophys. Res. 97, 3621–3645 (1992)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20

    Orr, J. C. et al. Estimates of anthropogenic carbon uptake from four three-dimensional global ocean models. Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles 15, 43–60 (2001)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21

    Kalnay, E. et al. The NCEP/NCAR 40-year reanalysis project. Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc. 77, 437–471 (1996)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22

    Feely, R. A. et al. Winter–summer variations of calcite and aragonite saturation in the northeast Pacific. Mar. Chem. 25, 227–241 (1988)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23

    Feely, R. A., Byrne, R. H., Betzer, P. R., Gendron, J. F. & Acker, J. G. Factors influencing the degree of saturation of the surface and intermediate waters of the North Pacific Ocean with respect to aragonite. J. Geophys. Res. 89, 10631–10640 (1984)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24

    Sarmiento, J. L. et al. Response of ocean ecosystems to climate warming. Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles 18, 3003, doi:10.1029/2003GB002134 (2004)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25

    Bopp, L. et al. Potential impact of climate change of marine export production. Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles 15, 81–99 (2001)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26

    Sarmiento, J. L., Le Quéré, C. & Pacala, S. Limiting future atmospheric carbon dioxide. Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles 9, 121–137 (1995)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  27. 27

    Heinze, C. Simulating oceanic CaCO3 export production in the greenhouse. Geophys. Res. Lett. 31, L16308, doi:10.1029/2004GL020613 (2004)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  28. 28

    Iglesias-Rodriguez, M. D. et al. Representing key phytoplankton functional groups in ocean carbon cycle models: Coccolithophorids. Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles 16, 1100, doi:10.1029/2001GB001454 (2002)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  29. 29

    Berner, R. A. in The Fate of Fossil Fuel CO2 in the Oceans (eds Andersen, N. R. & Malahoff, A.) 243–260 (Plenum, New York, 1977)

    Book  Google Scholar 

  30. 30

    Fabry, V. J. Shell growth rates of pteropod and heteropod molluscs and aragonite production in the open ocean: Implications for the marine carbonate system. J. Mar. Res. 48, 209–222 (1990)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  31. 31

    Bé, A. W. H. & Gilmer, R. W. Oceanic Micropaleontology Vol. 1 (ed. Ramsey, A.) 733–808 (Academic, London, 1977)

    Google Scholar 

  32. 32

    Dadon, J. R. & de Cidre, L. L. The reproductive cycle of the Thecosomatous pteropod Limacina retroversa in the western South Atlantic. Mar. Biol. 114, 439–442 (1992)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. 33

    Seibel, B. A. & Dierssen, H. M. Cascading trophic impacts of reduced biomass in the Ross Sea, Antarctica: Just the tip of the iceberg? Biol. Bull. 205, 93–97 (2003)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. 34

    Accornero, A., Manno, C., Esposito, F. & Gambi, M. C. The vertical flux of particulate matter in the polyna of Terra Nova Bay. Part II. Biological components. Antarct. Sci. 15, 175–188 (2003)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  35. 35

    Collier, R., Dymond, J., Susumu Honjo, S. M., Francois, R. & Dunbar, R. The vertical flux of biogenic and lithogenic material in the Ross Sea: moored sediment trap observations 1996–1998. Deep-Sea Res. II 47, 3491–3520 (2000)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  36. 36

    Honjo, S., Francois, R., Manganini, S., Dymond, J. & Collier, R. Particle fluxes to the interior of the Southern Ocean in the western Pacific sector along 170° W. Deep-Sea Res. II 47, 3521–3548 (2000)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  37. 37

    Betzer, P. R., Byrne, R., Acker, J., Lewis, C. S. & Jolley, R. R. The oceanic carbonate system: a reassessment of biogenic controls. Science 226, 1074–1077 (1984)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  38. 38

    Byrne, R. H., Acker, J. G., Betzer, P. R., Feely, R. A. & Cates, M. H. Water column dissolution of aragonite in the Pacific Ocean. Nature 312, 321–326 (1984)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  39. 39

    Lalli, C. M. Structure and function of the buccal apparatus of Clione limacina (Phipps) with a review of feeding in gymnosomatous pteropods. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 4, 101–118 (1970)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. 40

    Foster, B. A. & Montgomery, J. C. Planktivory in benthic nototheniid fish in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. Environ. Biol. Fish. 36, 313–318 (1993)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. 41

    Pakhomov, E., Perissinotto, A. & McQuaid, C. D. Prey composition and daily rations of myctophid fishes in the Southern Ocean. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 134, 1–14 (1996)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  42. 42

    La Mesa, M., Vacchi, M. & Sertorio, T. Z. Feeding plasticity of Trematomus newnesi (Pisces, Nototheniidae) in Terra Nova Bay, Ross Sea, in relation to environmental conditions. Polar Biol. 23, 38–45 (2000)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. 43

    Willette, T. M. et al. Ecological processes influencing mortality of juvenile pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) in Prince William Sound, Alaska. Fish. Oceanogr. 10, 14–41 (2001)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. 44

    Boldt, J. L. & Haldorson, L. J. Seasonal and geographical variation in juvenile pink salmon diets in the Northern Gulf of Alaska and Prince William Sound. Trans. Am. Fisheries Soc. 132, 1035–1052 (2003)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. 45

    Lalli, C. M. & Gilmer, R. Pelagic Snails (Stanford Univ. Press, Stanford, 1989)

    Google Scholar 

  46. 46

    Freiwald, A., Fosså, J. H., Grehan, A., Koslow, T. & Roberts, J. M. Cold-water Coral Reefs: Out of Sight—No Longer Out of Mind (No. 22 in Biodiversity Series, UNEP-WCMC, Cambridge, UK, 2004)

    Google Scholar 

  47. 47

    Dayton, P. K. in Polar Oceanography, Part B: Chemistry, Biology and Geology (ed. Smith, W. O.) 631–685 (Academic, San Diego, 1990)

    Book  Google Scholar 

  48. 48

    Shirayama, Y. & Thornton, H. Effect of increased atmospheric CO2 on shallow-water marine benthos. J. Geophys. Res. 110, C09S09, doi:10.1029/2004JC002561 (2005)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. 49

    Petit, J. R. et al. Climate and atmospheric history of the past 420,000 years from the Vostok ice core, Antarctica. Nature 399, 429–436 (1999)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  50. 50

    Pearson, P. N. & Palmer, M. R. Middle Eocene seawater pH and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. Science 284, 1824–1826 (1999)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

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

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to James C. Orr.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

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

Supplementary information

Supplementary Notes

Supplementary Methods, uncertainties, Supplementary Table, Supplementary Figures S1–S5 and additional references (PDF 2126 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Orr, J., Fabry, V., Aumont, O. et al. Anthropogenic ocean acidification over the twenty-first century and its impact on calcifying organisms. Nature 437, 681–686 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature04095

Download citation

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing