Rocky, intertidal habitat; home to many species that play a major role in primary and secondary production, energy and nutrient cycling.
Brittle stars living in the sediment.
Lophelia pertusa reefs provide a habitat for a variety of species and the coral skeletons provide a biodiversity 'hot spot'.
Close-up of a Lophelia cluster, showing the detail of a corallite.
Baseline survey on maerl bed before sample collection.
The sea urchin uses its spines and teeth to bore into soft rocks.
Long-term laboratory study of the effect of ocean acidification on key benthic organisms.
Sediment burrows showing how burrowing benthic organisms help mix seabed sediments.
Settlement panels, which incorporate gas permeable membranes, have been used to create and maintain high CO2 micro-environments in the field.
What are the impacts of ocean acidification on key benthic
(seabed) ecosystems, communities, habitats, species and their life
This consortium project (as part of the UK Ocean Acidification
Research Programme) is to quantify, predict and communicate the
impact of ocean acidification on biodiversity and ecosystem
functioning in three key UK coastal habitats; soft sediments,
calcareous biogenic habitats (such as cold water coral reefs and
maerl beds) and the rocky intertidal.
acidity (pH) of the world's oceans has been stable for the last 25
million years. However, the oceans are now absorbing so much
manmade CO2 from the atmosphere that measurable changes
in seawater pH and carbonate chemistry can be seen. It is predicted
that this could affect the basic biological functions of many
marine organisms, which in turn could have implications for
the survival of populations and communities, as well as the
maintenance of biodiversity and ecosystem function.
In the seas around the UK, the
habitats that make up the seafloor, along with the animals
associated with them, play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy
and productive marine ecosystem. This is important considering 40%
of the world's population lives within 100km of the coast and many
of these people depend on coastal systems for food, economic
prosperity and well-being. Given that coastal habitats also harbour
incredibly high levels of biodiversity, any environmental change
that affects these important ecosystems could have substantial
environmental and economical impacts.
During several recent international meetings scientific experts
have concluded that new research is urgently needed. In particular
we need long-term studies that determine: which organisms are
likely to be tolerant to high CO2 and which are
vulnerable; whether organisms will have time to adapt or
acclimatise to this rapid environmental change; and how the
interactions between individuals that determine ecosystem structure
will be affected.
This current lack of understanding is a major problem as ocean
acidification is a rapidly evolving management issue and, with an
insufficient knowledge base, policy makers and managers are
struggling to formulate effective strategies to sustain and protect
the marine environment in the face of ocean acidification.