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Technical Note: Approaches and software tools to investigate the impact of ocean acidification

Author(s): Gattuso JP, Lavigne H


Although future changes in the seawater carbonate chemistry are well constrained, their impact on marine organisms and ecosystems remains poorly known. The biological response to ocean acidification is a recent field of research as most purposeful experiments have only been carried out in the late 1990s. The potentially dire consequences of ocean acidification attract scientists and students with a limited knowledge of the carbonate chemistry and its experimental manipulation. Hence, some guidelines on carbonate chemistry manipulations may be helpful for the growing ocean acidification community to maintain comparability. Perturbation experiments are one of the key approaches used to investigate the biological response to elevated pCO2. They are based on measurements of physiological or metabolic processes in organisms and communities exposed to seawater with normal or altered carbonate chemistry. Seawater chemistry can be manipulated in different ways depending on the facilities available and on the question being addressed. The goal of this paper is (1) to examine the benefits and drawbacks of various manipulation techniques and (2) to describe a new version of the R software package seacarb which includes new functions aimed at assisting the design of ocean acidification perturbation experiments. Three approaches closely mimic the on-going and future changes in the seawater carbonate chemistry: gas bubbling, addition of high-CO2 seawater as well as combined additions of acid and bicarbonate and/or carbonate.

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