Research Fellows Directory
Dr Daniela Schmidt
University of Bristol
We are burning large quantities of fossil fuels, thereby emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Based on measurements from ice cores, atmospheric CO2 levels were between 260 and 280 ppm during the last 10,000 years. Anthropogenic carbon emissions to the Earth’s atmosphere and ocean are small compared to the natural fluxes in ocean-atmosphere-biosphere system, but they are large enough to cause significant changes in the surface environment of the Earth. The atmospheric CO2 at the moment is ~ 380 ppm, and is predicted to reach 450-550 by 2050 and as high as 800 by 2100.
The ocean is taking up a significant part of this CO2. As a consequence of CO2 uptake, the pH (the acidity) of the oceans are changing to values which have been seen only rarely in the geological record. To understand how organisms and ecosystems are reacting to future ocean acidification we can interrogate the geological record of acidification. Were there time interval which has a similar rate of change to what is happening now and how did organisms react to this change? My results suggest that acidification of the ocean today is bigger and faster than anything geologists can find in the fossil record. Indeed, its speed and strength — ten times the rate of anything in the past 65 million years — is a likely thread to many marine species, particularly ones that live in the deep ocean.
To go the next step, we have to understand how organisms calcify to be able to predict the effect of ocean acidification in the future. We need to be able to quantify how much energy it will cost to calcify if this becomes chemically more and more difficult due to ocean acidification. This information will allow us to assess potential impacts on calcifying algae in the ocean, important for the marine food chain, or organisms like mussels, we like to eat ourselves, or deep sea coral ecosystems, the nursing grounds for fish all along the North Atlantic sea board.
Interests and expertise (Subject groups)