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Tiny Shells Indicate Big Changes to Global Carbon Cycle

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Experiments with tiny, shelled organisms in the ocean suggest big changes to the global carbon cycle are underway, according to a study from the University of California, Davis. 

For the study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, scientists raised foraminifera — single-celled organisms about the size of a grain of sand — at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratoryunder future, high CO2 conditions.

These tiny organisms, commonly called “forams,” are ubiquitous in marine environments and play a key role in food webs and the ocean carbon cycle.

Experiments with tiny, shelled organisms in the ocean suggest big changes to the global carbon cycle are underway, according to a study from the University of California, Davis. 

For the study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, scientists raised foraminifera — single-celled organisms about the size of a grain of sand — at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratoryunder future, high CO2 conditions.

These tiny organisms, commonly called “forams,” are ubiquitous in marine environments and play a key role in food webs and the ocean carbon cycle.

Stressed under future conditions

After exposing them to a range of acidity levels, UC Davis scientists found that under high CO2, or more acidic, conditions, the foraminifera had trouble building their shells and making spines, an important feature of their shells.

They also showed signs of physiological stress, reducing their metabolism and slowing their respiration to undetectable levels.

Read more at University of California – Davis

Image: Catherine Davis and colleagues collect foraminifera to take back for study at UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory. (Credit: UC Davis)