Sea-floor microbes may be affected by ailing shrimp in acidified oceans

Disrupting just one process in the important relationship between microbes and bigger plants and animals that live in ocean floor sediment may have knock-on effects that could reduce the productivity of coastal ecosystems.

The first to investigate the impacts of ocean acidification – caused by increasing concentrations of dissolved carbon dioxide – on the interactions between macro and micro-organisms in sediments.

We show that the presence of the mud shrimp can perform the useful task of increasing nitrification rates in coastal sediments, but that this enhanced ecosystem function is inhibited by ocean acidification. Our results indicate the importance of multi-species interactions in determining how individual organisms or groups of organisms will respond to environmental change.

The previous studies had suggested that burrowing mud shrimp spent more time beating their pleopods (walking legs) to try to increase their oxygen supply in seas that are increasingly acidic.

The shrimps’ distress – and consequent alteration of their relationship with the nitrogen-cycling microbes that live in their sediment burrows – was just one example of an interwoven system breaking down.

Source | Phys.Org