The effect of ocean acidification on iron availability to phytoplankton in the eastern North Pacific is the focus of a three-year, more than $954,000 National Science Foundation collaborative research grant to the University of Maine, University of Washington and University of South Florida.
(From University of Maine/ By Margaret Nagle ) — UMaine School of Marine Sciences professor Mark Wells will lead the project, in collaboration with Charles Trick from Western University and Kristen Buck from the University of South Florida. Joining them will be Shigenobu Takeda of the University of Nagasaki, and graduate and undergraduate students from the four universities.
The international collaboration also will feature educational outreach for the public, with Maine K–12 students and their teachers engaged in learning opportunities during and after the research cruise.
Ocean acidification is caused by increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning. Carbon dioxide dissolves from the atmosphere into the surface ocean and reacts with seawater to form acid, causing lower seawater pH. This acidification already can be measured, but it will be greatly magnified by the end of the century.
One of the outcomes from ocean acidification will be changes in the availability of iron to marine phytoplankton, the grasses of the sea that support the marine food web and account for more than half the biomass of the oceans. Like humans, phytoplankton require iron to grow, but much of the iron dissolved in seawater is bound with organic molecules in ways that limit the ability of phytoplankton to access it.
Much of the biological production in the global ocean is limited by this iron availability, and it is uncertain whether ocean acidification will lead to decreases in…