Ocean acidification may well be helping invasive species

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Ocean acidification may well be helping invasive species

November 11, 2015 - 18:07
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Ocean acidification may well be helping invasive species of algae, jellyfish, crabs and shellfish to move to new areas of the planet with damaging consequences, according scientists from Plymouth University.

Carcinus maenas is a common littoral crab, and an important invasive species, listed among the 100 "world's worst alien invasive species".

Ocean acidification affects biological processes in a wide range of marine taxa.

A new study, published in Research and Reports in Biodiversity Studies, notes that in the tropics, coral reefs face a host of interconnected problems (bleaching, corrosion, disease, spreading seaweed, invasive species) that are all caused by rising CO2 levels.

Based on a synthesis of evidence available to date, we predict increased growth and toxicity in harmful algal bloom species, and a significant increase in invasive algae in response to increased CO2 availability. Blooms of stinging jellyfish are also expected to increase since they are highly resilient to acidification.

We are witnessing the spread of marine life that cause problems – such as toxic jellyfish blooms and rotting algal mats. Based on a synthesis of evidence available to date, we predict the problems associated with harmful marine life will get worse in response to rising CO2.

Professor Jason Hall-Spencer, lead author of the report.

The effects of ocean acidification on invasive molluscs (eg, oyster drills), damaging echinoderms (eg, crown-of-thorns starfish), and a wide range of nuisance taxa will vary depending on species and location.

In the USA, for example, the invasive crab Carcinus maenas is resilient to projected increases in CO2 and its impact on marine communities is expected to increase since it feeds on organisms that respond to ocean acidification with weaker defensive traits and lower recruitment.

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