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BEFORE OCEAN ACIDIFICATION: CALCIFIER CHEMISTRY LESSONS

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  • Received 23 April 2012. Accepted 15 May 2012.

Abstract

Ocean Acidification (OA) has been an important research topic for a decade. Scientists have focused on how the predicted 56% decline in the seawater carbonate ion (inline image) concentration will dramatically impair the ability of calcifiers, ranging from coccolithophores to shellfish, to form calcium carbonate (CaCO3) structures, and the implications of the reduced carbonate saturation state (Ω) for increased dissolution of such structures. However, many published OA studies have overlooked a fundamental issue: most calcifying organisms do not rely on carbonate from seawater to calcify; they use either bicarbonate (inline image) or metabolically-produced CO2. The ability of important primary (corals, coralline seaweeds, and coccolithophores) and secondary (mollusks) producers to modify their local carbonate chemistry suggests that the primary threat to them from OA is by dissolution rather than impaired calcification. Here, we draw on calcification research from an era before OA and combine it with recent studies that question the source of the carbonate ion, to provide new insights into how OA might affect calcifying organisms. Organismal modification of local carbonate chemistry may enable some calcifiers to successfully form calcareous structures despite OA.

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