Marine Life & Conservation
Researchers Claim Dissolving Snail Shells Are An Effect of Ocean Acidification
An increasingly acidified Pacific Ocean is dissolving the shells of tiny marine snails that live along North America’s western coast. The broad finding, which has surprised some researchers, suggests that sea life is already being affected by changes in the ocean’s chemistry caused by rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.
“It really changes the game by demonstrating that acidification is having a noticeable impact,” says biological oceanographer Jan Newton, co-director of the Washington Ocean Acidification Center at the University of Washington, Seattle. Newton was not involved in the study.
The researchers studied one kind of pteropod, common planktonic snails known as sea butterflies for the winglike body parts that help them glide through the water. Like other shellfish, pteropods use dissolved carbonate in seawater to build their shells. But laboratory studies have shown that the process can be disrupted, and shells can dissolve as seawater becomes more acidic, or lower in pH (temperature has an impact, too). As its concentration rises in the atmosphere, carbon enters the ocean through chemical reactions, causing its pH at the surface to drop by 0.1 units since the pre-industrial era. That’s raised fears that marine ecosystems could be affected.
Outside the laboratory, however, just a handful of studies have linked falling pH levels to damaged shells. In 2012, researchers documented damage to oysters in hatchery tanks in Oregon fed with seawater that had become more acidic as a result of offshore upwelling patterns. The same year, researchers reported that pteropods collected at one site in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica showed signs of shell damage.
To gauge how acidification might be affecting the Pacific, biological oceanographer Nina Bednaršek of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Seattle and colleagues collected pteropods at 13 sites during a 2011 research cruise between Washington and southern California. Back at the lab, they used a scanning electron microscope to examine the fragile shells, which are 1 cm in size or smaller. Normally, healthy pteropods have smooth shells. But more than one-half of these shells showed signs of dissolution, they report in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The pitted textures made them look like “cauliflower” or “sandpaper,” Bednaršek says.
“I was surprised by the sheer spacial extent of the dissolution,” she says. “This is something we have not predicted before – the extent of the population that’s already affected.”
What’s not clear from this study is how such damage might be affecting pteropod populations or the broader ecosystem. Previous work has suggested that shell damage can make it harder for the invertebrates to fight infection, maintain metabolic chemistry, defend themselves against predators, and control buoyancy. And while the snails are one of the most abundant organisms on Earth, “their role in ecosystems is generally not all that well known,” writes biological oceanographer Gareth Lawson of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts in an e-mail. But “they can be important prey items at some times and places” for fish and other creatures. For example, the pteropod examined in this study, Limacina helicina, is a key food for fish eaten by pink salmon, an important North Pacific fishery.
“If the pteropod shells are dissolving as fast as the authors claim, the effects on individual physiology, behavior, and fitness, and hence on populations and food webs, are not easy to predict,” Lawson says. “But they could be profound.”
The waters probed during this study, known as the California Current, are a hot spot of ocean acidification because of coastal upwelling, which brings naturally acidic waters to the surface, where they are made even more acidic by greenhouse gas pollution. But Richard Feely of NOAA, a co-author on the study, says that the site serves as a “harbinger” for what global seas will be experiencing decades hence.
Marine Life & Conservation
PADI partners with global skincare brand Medik8
PADI®’s global non-profit the AWARE Foundation™ is teaming up with leading sustainability-focused skincare brand Medik8 to save our most critical ecosystem on the planet – the ocean.
As the new corporate sponsor of the PADI AWARE Foundation’s 2023 Community Grant Programme, Medik8 will be supporting four grassroots conservation projects that range from protecting megafauna like turtles and whales from entanglement to fuelling hands-on citizen science initiatives like seagrass restoration.
The PADI AWARE Community Grant Programme is designed to award ocean protection initiatives that are in direct support of the United Nations Decade of Science for Sustainable Development in five distinct categories: coral restoration, developing marine protected areas, eliminating marine debris, reducing the effects of climate change, and protecting species threatened with extinction like sharks and turtles. In 2022 PADI AWARE™ dedicated nearly one-quarter of its public funds to empower local communities to take action for our shared blue planet.
“Last year we launched the Grant Programme to directly support PADI Members and NGOs driving meaningful conservation projects, often who have little or no funding support,” says Danna Moore, PADI AWARE Foundation’s Global Director. “This year, due to the collaboration with Medik8, we can provide more resources directly to local communities that need them most. Medik8 is a like-minded organisation that shares our science-based, sustainability-driven, and community-oriented values – and will be a strong partner committed to helping us create positive ocean change.”
Medik8’s support of the PADI AWARE Community Grants programme is in line with their ethos of making a positive impact through driving sustainability strategies with everything they do – from reducing carbon impact and waste to investing in being an ethical business with direct social investments. Their connection and deep love for the ocean is rooted in Medik8’s founder Elliot Isaacs, who is a PADI Master Scuba Diver™.
“As a brand, we strongly believe that increased social investment will allow us to make a more significant mark on wider society,” says Alexandra Florea, Head of Sustainability at Medik8. “Working with grassroots organisations who understand exactly what is needed on the ground will mean we can generate the greatest impact. We chose PADI as our long-term charitable partner because, like us, they put science at the heart of everything they do to bring about positive results.”
The PADI AWARE Grantee projects Medik8 is sponsoring fuel the impact of local citizen science initiatives driving global change like Kosamare Seagrass Restoration in Greece, a grant recipient from 2022 and now 2023. The other three grantee projects have also been selected and range from marine debris removal to climate change mitigation – and are set to be announced in the coming months.
The PADI AWARE Community Grant programme is open to all PADI Dive Centres around the world, along with locally-based NGOs and charities working on marine conservation issues that operate on a budget below $1 Million USD.
“With incredible partners like Medik8 who are equally committed to creating positive ocean change, a swell of hope for our shared blue planet is becoming stronger with every project we support – further proving that the ripples from local action really do have a global impact for us all,” says Moore.
The next round of proposal submissions is on 4 April 2023, with more information at www.padi.com/aware/grant-funding-criteria.
Marine Life & Conservation
Win ‘Gold Rush’ Mako Shark Sculpture worth £7,000
One lucky person is set to win a stunning, life-sized mako shark sculpture worth more than £7,000 for just £5 thanks to a lottery initiative developed by the internationally acclaimed marine wildlife sculptor Scott Glee to support Bite-Back Shark & Marine Conservation.
Tickets to win ‘Gold Rush’, an electric blue 7-ft mako shark sculpture with a 24-carat gold leaf dorsal fin have just gone on sale at https://tinyurl.com/win-gold-rush, with all proceeds supporting the UK charity’s campaigns to make Britain shark fin free.
The high impact artwork has been created to raise awareness of the global and unsustainable marine ‘gold rush’ to hunt sharks for their valuable fins alone and to help fund Bite-Back’s campaigns to end the UK’s trade in shark products.
Individual lottery tickets to win the sculpture are being sold exclusively through the Bite-Back website for £5 each plus money saving ticket deals in groups of 5, 10, 15 and 25 units.
Crafted from fibreglass, the dramatic, one-off sculpture has been sealed in a weatherproof clear coat providing the winner with the option of displaying Gold Rush indoors and out.
Artist Scott Gleed said: “I can’t think of a better way to announce yourself as a shark fan than a 7-ft shark in your garden, house or workplace. Sharks have been in my blood for decades and this is an opportunity for me to express my love of sharks and my anger at their exploitation in one piece of art. On top of that it’s a huge pleasure to support the hardest working shark charity in the UK. I hope this unique piece goes to a great home and raises thousands of pounds for Bite-Back’s campaigns.”
Tickets will be on sale for just 10 weeks before the winning ticket is picked by the artist himself after the 12 May 2023 deadline.
Campaign director for Bite-Back, Graham Buckingham, said: “This is a breath-taking piece of art with an important story to tell. Fins are the most valuable part of a shark and, around the world, fishing fleets are in a race to hunt sharks and separate the fins from the body with no thought to the global catastrophe that could follow. We expect this artwork to help draw attention to the issue and contribute important funds for our campaigns to end the UK’s role in the shark fin trade. We’re full of gratitude to Scott for his vision, generosity, and contribution to our vital work.”
Visit https://tinyurl.com/win-gold-rush to buy your tickets now and visit www.gleed3d.com to learn more about Scott’s sculptures and the chance to commission your own marine masterpiece.
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