Evolution at sea: Long-term experiments indicate phytoplankton can adapt to ocean acidification
Fossil fuel derived carbon dioxide has a serious impact on global climate but also a disturbing effect on the oceans, know as the other CO2 problem. When CO2 dissolves in seawater it forms carbonic acid and results in a drop in pH, the oceans acidify. A wealth of short-term experiments has shown that calcifying organisms, such as corals, clams and snails, but also micron size phytoplankton are affected by ocean acidification. The potential for organisms to cope with acidified oceanic conditions via evolutionary adaptations has so far been unresolved. Scientists have now for the first demonstrated the potential of the unicellular algae Emiliania huxleyi to adapt to changing pH conditions and thereby at least partly to mitigate negative effects of ocean acidification.