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Dec 07, 2013 06:45 AM EST

Ocean Acidification Threatens Survival Rate of Copepods in the Arctic, Study

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Rising ocean acidification is threatening the survival of copepods, the tiny crustaceans, according to an expedition to the Arctic, which was a part of the Catlin Arctic Survey.

Ocean acidification occurs when seawater absorbs high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, lowering the pH scale and making the environment acidic. An estimated 30 percent of carbon dioxide released by humans dissolves into the oceans which is accelerating the acidification.

Researchers claim that acidification in the Arctic Ocean is occurring faster than any other part on the planet. As a result, the marine life in the Arctic will be affected the most. Other adversities of changing climatic and oceanic conditions like sea-ice loss and warming temperatures will also harm the organisms.

Copepods, shrimp-like creatures, have been found to react poorly to increasingly acidic water. These tiny crustaceans that live just beneath the ocean surface, are a vital food source for a variety of other marine life and can even act as bio-indicators. If copepods are affected, other marine species that depend on these creatures are also more likely to be impacted.

"There were certainly possibilities for these animals to be affected," said Ceri Lewis of the University of Exeter and lead author of a paper. "They're one of the key components of the Arctic food web," Bay Today reports.

The climatic and oceanic change could threaten the food web in the far North as copepods are considered to be one of the foundations of the marine ecosystem.

"Our study found that some marine animals may not be able to survive the impact of ocean acidification, particularly the early-life stages," Ceri Lewis, one of the researchers, said in a statement. "This unique insight into how marine life will respond to future changes in the oceans has implications that reach far beyond the Arctic regions."

In the survey, the researchers also found that copepods have a better survival rate than organisms with a limited natural habitat because they move large distances and across a wide range of pH conditions.

The findings are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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