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Ocean 'dead zones' likely to grow due to climate change

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Shanta Barley | 13:50 UK time, Monday, 20 April 2009

Writing in the journal Science, researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute say that ocean 'dead zones' are likely to grow with climate change.

As our oceans warm and absorb more carbon dioxide, CO2 overload and oxygen starvation could conspire to create deadly 'super-pockets' of acidic seawater that not only threaten marine life, but also generate nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas, according to the research.

shells226x226.JPG'Acid' seawater won't eat through four floors of the spaceship Nostromo with a single drip, but the study predicts that it will 'impose a physiological strain on marine animals, impairing performance' (performance here meaning the ability to feed, reproduce and convert carbon into shells, rather than, say, recite Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor.)

The authors of the research, Peter Brewer and Edward Peltzer, also say that the bacteria inhabiting these burgeoning 'dead zones' could become a significant source of nitrous oxide - a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than CO2. Although happily 'any release of this to the atmosphere would be greatly limited by oceanic processes of mixing and consumption.'


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