What should everyone know about pteropods

20.01.2016 14:08

Marine animals under attack - What we can learn from snails about climate change

Dr. Johannes Schnurr Press and public relations, publications
Daimler and Benz Foundation

The acidification and warming of the world's oceans are threatening companions of global climate change. Since the beginning of industrialization, our oceans have absorbed around half of the anthropogenic carbon dioxide. The effects of ocean acidification can be quantified by studying acid-sensitive marine life. Winged snails are helpful climate indicators.

Since the middle of the last century, the earth has warmed by 0.7 degrees Celsius - even skeptics have now recognized this value. During the same period, the carbon dioxide concentration in our atmosphere rose from 315 to 400 ppm (parts per million). Sea water absorbs about a third of the greenhouse gas and changes its chemical composition, which leads to a lowering of the pH value. This threatens marine organisms such as corals, mussels or pteropods, so-called pteropods.

"The successive acidification not only poses problems for calcifying organisms, but also the entire food chain and thus our ecosystem", explains the biologist Dr. Nina Keul from the Institute for Geosciences at the Christian Albrechts University in Kiel. Funded by the Daimler and Benz Foundation and the Reinhard Frank Foundation, she researches the effects of anthropogenic carbon dioxide and climate change on marine animals.

The pteropods have a delicate limestone shell, which consists of easily soluble aragonite and is sensitive to corrosive water. Keul examines the shells of pteropods made of ocean sediments, they represent a kind of climate archive. This allows carbon dioxide and temperature values ​​from past epochs to be reconstructed and quantified without anthropogenic influences.

Keul's scientific goal is to provide reliable forecasts about the expected climate change and the associated dangers for marine animals. Studies indicate that calcifying organisms such as pteropods will face massive problems when the pH value of the oceans falls further and that species diversity will decrease overall. In order to prevent the dangerous effects of climate change, carbon dioxide emissions must be reduced significantly and anthropogenic warming limited to well below two degrees Celsius.

Postdoctoral fellowship program
The Daimler and Benz Foundation annually awards twelve scholarships of 40,000 euros each for a period of two years. Postdocs, junior professors or leaders of young research groups can use the funds freely - for example to finance scientific assistants or technical equipment, for research trips or to participate in conferences.

Daimler and Benz Foundation
Impetus for knowledge - the Daimler and Benz Foundation is strengthening processes of knowledge generation. Her focus is on promoting young scientists, interdisciplinary collaborations and research projects from all scientific disciplines. The operational and non-profit foundation is one of the largest science-promoting foundations in Germany.

Contact Person:
Dr. Johannes Schnurr, +49 176-216 446 92
Patricia Piekenbrock, +49 152-289 093 77

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Features of this press release:
Journalists, scientists
Biology, society, sea / climate, animals / land / forest, environment / ecology
Research / knowledge transfer, research projects