Marine Biology

, Volume 160, Issue 8, pp 1807–1812 | Cite as

Appropriate pCO2 treatments in ocean acidification experiments

  • Paul McElhany
  • D. Shallin Busch
Review, Concept, and Synthesis


Experiments in which organisms are reared in treatments simulating current and future pCO2 concentrations are critical for ocean acidification (OA) research. The majority of OA exposure experiments use average atmospheric pCO2 levels as a baseline treatment. We conducted an ecoregion-scale analysis of global carbon chemistry datasets. For many locales, atmospheric pCO2 levels are not an appropriate characterization of marine carbon chemistry. We argue that atmospheric pCO2 should be disregarded when setting baseline treatment conditions and experimental design should rely on measurements of carbon chemistry in a study subject’s habitat. As carbon chemistry conditions vary with space and time, we suggest using a range of pCO2 values as a control rather than a single value. We illustrate this issue with data on the habitat of Euphausia pacifica, which currently lives in waters with a pCO2 around 900 μatm, a concentration much higher than the current global atmospheric mean.


Ocean Acidification Online Supplemental Material Carbon Chemistry Atmospheric pCO2 pCO2 Condition 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We would like to thank Chris Sabine and Simone Alin at NOAA PMEL for helpful discussions on ocean carbon data sets.

Supplementary material

227_2012_2052_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (96 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 95 kb)
227_2012_2052_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (20.1 mb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 20616 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag (outside the USA) 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Conservation Biology Division, Northwest Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries ServiceNational Oceanic and Atmospheric AdministrationSeattleUSA

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