Big trouble ahead for ocean’s tiny microbes


It’s never good when a scientist says “I try not to be an alarmist, but …”

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what MIT’s Stephanie Dutkiewicz recently said about how ocean acidification and warming waters could massively disrupt the world’s phytoplankton populations, aka the base of the entire marine food web.

For a refresher on ocean acidification, check out this short Grist video featuring our office beta fish and a soda maker. Otherwise, here’s the gist: As the ocean absorbs CO2, it becomes more acidic. In the last 200 years or so, the ocean’s acidity has increased by about 30 percent, and scientists expect it to go up way more by the end of the century.

So Dutkiewicz, an oceanographer, and her colleagues wanted to know what exactly that would mean for all those cute little micro-plants floating around out there, and today, in a paper published online in the journal Nature Climate Change, they deliver the sobering news: Ocean acidification will likely…

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