Shrimps Are Sounding The Ocean Acidity Alarm

The snapping shrimp is the noisiest marine creature in coastal ecosystems. Image: Tullio Ross/University of Adelaide

The effect of the sea absorbing increased carbon dioxide in the air has damaging consequences for the noisy snapping shrimp and marine life in coastal rock pools.

The slow change in water chemistry as more and more atmospheric carbon dioxide dissolves in the sea and causes acidification could make the oceans much less noisy and slow the growth of life at the sea’s margins.

In one study, Australian scientists warn that as the acidity levels grow, the snapping shrimp may grow ever quieter. And in another study, Californian scientists have tested the water chemistry in coastal rock pools and discovered that they become most corrosive at night.

The snapping shrimp is the loudest invertebrate in the ocean. It forms bubbles in its snapping claw and uses this noise-making tool to warn off predators. And it can generate up to 210 decibels of noise, with important consequences for other creatures in coastal ecosystems.

Cracking sounds

“Coastal reefs are far from being quiet environments – they are filled with loud cracking sounds,” says Tullio Rossi, a marine acidification specialist at the University of Adelaide’s School of Biological sciences. “Shrimp choruses can be heard kilometres offshore and are important because they aid the navigation of baby fish to their homes. But ocean acidification is jeopardising this process.”

He and colleagues report in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B that they tested the shrimps under laboratory conditions of acidity predicted for the end of the century, and they found that both the frequency and volume of the snapping noises diminished.

The researchers also made field recordings at carbon dioxide-rich submarine volcanic vents, and observed the same pattern. They believe that the change of ocean pH levels affects behaviour, rather than impairing physiology.

“If human carbon emissions continue unabated, the resulting ocean acidification will turn our currently lively, noisy reefs into relatively silent habitats”

“This outcome is quite disturbing,” says Ivan Nagelkirken, a marine ecologist at the University of Adelaide. “Sound is one of the most reliable directional cues in the ocean because it can carry up to thousands of kilometres with little change, whereas visual cues and scents are affected by light, water clarity and turbulence.

“If human carbon emissions continue unabated, the resulting ocean acidification will turn our currently lively, noisy reefs into relatively silent habitats. And given the important role of natural sounds for animals in marine ecosystems, that’s not good news for the health of our oceans.”

Researchers have been concerned at the impact of acidification for years. They have established a threat to coral reefs and shellfish larvae, to worms at the water’s edge, and to the behaviour of fish at depth. And there is increasing evidence that conditions will get progressively worse.

Growth rates

Californian coastline expert Lester Kwiatkowski, of the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Department of Global Ecology, and colleagues observed the impact of increasing acidity in a series of rock pools. They found that growth rates and shell formation were not greatly affected in the daytime.

However, they conclude in Nature Scientific Reports that the natural respiration of carbon dioxide from plants and animals at low tide made the pool water corrosive at night.

“Even in today’s temperate coastal oceans, calcifying species, such as mussels and coralline algae, can dissolve during the night due to the more-acidic conditions caused by community respiration,” says Dr Kwiatkowski.

His Carnegie colleague and co-author, Professor Ken Caldeira, says:: “If what we see happening along California’s coast today is indicative of what will continue in the coming decades, by the year 2050 there will likely be twice as much night-time dissolution as there is today.

“Nobody really knows how our coastal ecosystems will respond to these corrosive waters, but it certainly won’t be well.” – Climate News Network

About the Author

Tim Radford, freelance journalistTim Radford is a freelance journalist. He worked for The Guardian for 32 years, becoming (among other things) letters editor, arts editor, literary editor and science editor. He won the Association of British Science Writers award for science writer of the year four times. He served on the UK committee for the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction. He has lectured about science and the media in dozens of British and foreign cities. 

Science that Changed the World: The untold story of the other 1960s revolutionBook by this Author:

Science that Changed the World: The untold story of the other 1960s revolution
by Tim Radford.

Click here for more info and/or to order this book on Amazon. (Kindle book)

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeiwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptruesswsvthtrukurvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook-icontwitter-iconrss-icon

 Get The Latest By Email

{emailcloak=off}

LATEST VIDEOS

Fossil Fuel Production Plans Could Push Earth off a Climate Cliff
by The Real News Network
The United Nations is beginning its climate summit in Madrid.
Big Rail Spends More on Denying Climate Change than Big Oil
by The Real News Network
A new study concludes that rail is the industry that's injected the most money into climate change denial propaganda…
Did Scientists Get Climate Change Wrong?
by Sabine Hossenfelder
Interview with Prof Tim Palmer from the University of Oxford.
The New Normal: Climate Change Poses Challenges For Minnesota Farmers
by KMSP-TV Minneapolis-St. Paul
Spring brought a deluge of rain in southern Minnesota and it never seemed to stop.
Report: Today's Kids' Health Will Be Imperiled by Climate Change
by VOA News
An international report from researchers at 35 institutions says climate change will threaten the health and quality of…
How Supercharged Trash Gas Could Produce More Green Energy
by InnerSelf Staff
Synthetic compounds called “siloxanes” from everyday products like shampoo and motor oil are finding their way into…
300 Million Face Severe Risk of Climate-Fueled Coastal Flooding by 2050
by Democracy Now!
As a shocking new report finds that many coastal cities will be flooded by rising sea levels by 2050, Chile’s President…
Climate Warning: California Continues To Burn, Data Estimates Of Global Flooding
by MSNBC
Ben Strauss, CEO and Chief Scientist of Climate Central joins MTP Daily to discuss alarming new information about…

LATEST ARTICLES

How Climate, Not Conflict, Drove Many Syrian Refugees To Lebanon
How Climate, Not Conflict, Drove Many Syrian Refugees To Lebanon
by Hussein A. Amery
People who fled Syria in recent years are often viewed as war refugees because of the violence that has engulfed much…
Fossil Fuel Production Plans Could Push Earth off a Climate Cliff
by The Real News Network
The United Nations is beginning its climate summit in Madrid.
Iceland Put People First To Save Melting Economy
Iceland Put People First To Save Melting Economy
by Alex Kirby
Faced in 2008 with a melting economy, Iceland acted fast to avoid total collapse. Icelanders’ own needs were its…
Big Rail Spends More on Denying Climate Change than Big Oil
by The Real News Network
A new study concludes that rail is the industry that's injected the most money into climate change denial propaganda…
How The Climate Crisis Could Reverse Progress In Achieving Gender Equality
How The Climate Crisis Could Reverse Progress In Achieving Gender Equality
by Nitya Rao
People who directly depend on the natural world for their livelihoods, like farmers and fishers, will be among the…
The Climate Crisis: 6 Steps To Making Fossil Fuels History
The Climate Crisis: 6 Steps To Making Fossil Fuels History
by Stephen Peake
In shouting “system change not climate change”, young people understand that the 3-4℃ warmer world we’re headed for…
The Five Corrupt Pillars Of Climate Change Denial
by Mark Maslin
The fossil fuel industry, political lobbyists, media moguls and individuals have spent the past 30 years sowing doubt…
How Computer Models Predict Where We’ll Go As Seas Rise
How Computer Models Predict Where We’ll Go As Seas Rise
by Elizabeth Fussell and David Wrathall
A new modeling approach can help us better understand how policy decisions will influence human migration as sea levels…