, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 449-462
Date: 05 Feb 2010

Impact of near-future ocean acidification on echinoderms

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Abstract

As a consequence of increasing atmospheric CO2, the world’s oceans are warming and slowly becoming more acidic (ocean acidification, OA) and profound changes in marine ecosystems are certain. Calcification is one of the primary targets for studies of the impact of CO2-driven climate change in the oceans and one of the key marine groups most likely to be impacted by predicted climate change events are the echinoderms. Echinoderms are a vital component of the marine environment with representatives in virtually every ecosystem, where they are often keystone ecosystem engineers. This paper reviews and analyses what is known about the impact of near-future ocean acidification on echinoderms. A global analysis of the literature reveals that echinoderms are surprisingly robust to OA and that important differences in sensitivity to OA are observed between populations and species. However, this is modulated by parameters such as (1) exposure time with rare longer term experiments revealing negative impacts that are hidden in short or midterm ones; (2) bottlenecks in physiological processes and life-cycle such as stage-specific developmental phenomena that may drive the whole species responses; (3) ecological feedback transforming small scale sub lethal effects into important negative effects on fitness. We hypothesize that populations/species naturally exposed to variable environmental pH conditions may be pre-adapted to future OA highlighting the importance to understand and monitor environmental variations in order to be able to to predict sensitivity to future climate changes. More stress ecology research is needed at the frontier between ecotoxicology and ecology, going beyond standardized tests using model species in order to address multiple water quality factors (e.g. pH, temperature, toxicants) and organism health. However, available data allow us to conclude that near-future OA will have negative impact on echinoderm taxa with likely significant consequences at the ecosystem level.