Ocean-in-a-box to test future CO2 impact on polar environments
Monday, January 13, 2014 - 01:41
Jan 14. - A team of international scientists is preparing to test the effect of heightened CO2 levels in waters around Antarctica, to learn more about the impact of conditions expected over the next century. The researchers will be using technology that replicates future expected acidity levels to see how plants and animals respond. Rob Muir reports.
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Beneath the harsh surface environment of Antacrtica, scientists fear there are potentially devestating changes underway,
They say acidity levels produced by excess carbon dioxide are rising. And, if the trend continues, they want to know how even higher CO2 levels will affect animal and plant life in decades to come, according to Dr Donna Roberts from the University of Tasmania.
(SOUNDBITE)(English) DR DONNA ROBERTS, ANTARCTIC CLIMATE AND ECOSYSTEM RESEARCH CENTRE SAYING:
"We're building a future ocean, a future box and we're going to turn the CO2 up inside it and see what happens to the entire community."
That future ocean comes in the form of semi-enclosed underwater chambers that will placed beneath the Antarctic ice sheet. They will allow scientists to vary the CO2 concentration in the water without changing light or nutrient conditions.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute has conducted similar research but never in polar conditions according to MBARI's Bill Kirkwood.
(SOUNDBITE)(English) BILL KIRKWOOD, MONTEREY BAY RESEARCH INSTITUTE SAYING:
"So we take sea water, we add some CO2 to it and change that pH and inject that into this chamber."
And then they watch to see how those higher CO2 levels affect the organisms inside.
Donna Roberts says today's ocean acid levels are alresady having an impact.
SOUNDBITE)(English) DR DONNA ROBERTS, ANTARCTIC CLIMATE AND ECOSYSTEM RESEARCH CENTRE SAYING:
"In the open ocean for example there are things called terapods, they are baby snails that have a shell and they're being eaten away and they actually support the entire southern ocean food web."
Other recent studies also suggest that CO2 produced by greenhouse gas emissions pose a serious threat to life in polar waters.
By building their future ocean, the reseachers will at least have a better idea of what's to come.
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