Acidity threatens ocean’s food chain

Lina Hansson at the European Project on OCean Acidification (EPOCA) tells us about recent science by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and other institutions.

Those scientists’ findings are about tiny snails called sea butterflies. The findings illustrate how increased carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere can have knock-on effects on food chains. On people’s food supply.

The sea butterfly is a titchy little thing with a charming name. It’s also called a pteropod and it isn’t destined for our fish suppers. Not directly. But if there aren’t enough sea butterflies and other tiny creatures, there won’t be enough of the bigger fish for people to eat.

You might want to listen to this news report about the sea butterfly story.

About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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7 Responses to Acidity threatens ocean’s food chain

  1. Finn Holding says:

    This issue seems to have been off the radar for a long time, so a timely reminder that this problem still needs dealing with… urgently. It seems quite simple, we’ve got to reduce CO2 output.

    • argylesock says:

      Yes indeed. I didn’t even know about this until I started popsci blogging and I bet most people still don’t know about it. CO2 output isn’t just about robbing people of their precious gas-guzzling cars. It’s about robbing people of food.

      • Finn Holding says:


        The most high profile ramification of ocean acidification has been the destruction of coral reefs, which in my view is a tragedy of incalculable dimensions. The process is the same as for the sea butterflies because the coral skeletons are made of the same stuff – calcium carbonate – which is acid soluble. So as the pH drops the CaCO3 dissolves into the water and the shells and exoskeleta get thinner and weaker, with inevitable consequences.

        • argylesock says:

          Yes. I’ve seen commentary about the damage to coral reefs and it’s a serious matter. But I suspect that to most people, it’s less of a kick to the guts. More of a ‘should care, but don’t’ scenario. Whereas the prospect of not being able to buy fish and chips… say that to the average British person and they’ll wake up. Cynical? Moi?

  2. Such a delicate balance.

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