Stanford researchers uncover startling insights into how human-generated carbon dioxide could reshape oceans

Volcanic carbon dioxide vents off the coast of Italy are rapidly acidifying nearby waters. This natural laboratory provides a crystal ball-view into potential future marine biodiversity impacts around the world.

Something peculiar is happening in the azure waters off the rocky cliffs of Ischia, Italy. There, streams of gas-filled volcanic bubbles rising up to the surface are radically changing life around them by making seawater acidic. Stanford researchers studying species living near these gassy vents have learned what it takes to survive in acidic waters, providing a glimpse of what future oceans might look like as they grow more acidic.

Their findings, published December 11 in Nature Communications, suggest that ocean acidification driven by human-caused carbon dioxide emissions could have a larger impact than previously thought.

“When an organism’s environment becomes more acidic, it can dramatically impact not only that species, but the overall ecosystem’s resilience, function and stability,” said Stanford marine biologist Fiorenza Micheli, lead author on the paper.

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