Research highlight

Calcifiers cover up

Nature Climate Change

August 22, 2011

The external organic layers of marine calcifiers may play a large, but previously unappreciated, role in protecting these organisms from the corrosive effects of sea water, according to a paper published online this week in Nature Climate Change.

Using a series of transplantation experiments along natural atmospheric carbon dioxide gradients Riccardo Rodolfo-Metalpa and colleagues show that corals and molluscs are able to calcify and grow at faster than normal rates when exposed to the high carbon dioxide levels that are projected for the next 300 years. The team suggests that although calcifiers continue to accrete shell or skeleton beneath healthy tissue, there is still risk of exposed shells and skeletons dissolving as pH levels fall, and only those with intact external protective layers remain protected. They also found that the adverse effects of climate change are exacerbated when high temperatures coincide with acidification.

doi: 10.1038/nclimate1200

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