Arctic ocean acidification and warming: a meta-analysis of organism responses

Yens Vandenboer

The Arctic Ocean will experience the worst ocean acidification and warming under the IPCC’s ‘business as usual’ scenario compared with other regions by the year 2100. While these conditions have shown to be detrimental to a large variety of organisms, especially in (sub)tropical regions, the responses of Arctic communities remain largely unknown. In this meta-analysis we assessed the vulnerability of Arctic marine communities to ocean acidification and warming specific to the region. Given the large natural variability in pH and temperature to which Arctic organisms are exposed, we expected them to be more resilient to these conditions compared to communities at lower latitudes. Looking at multiple biological processes, an indication was found that this might be the case. Additionally, we looked for sources of variation which could explain the difference in effects. We found that heterotrophic organisms will most likely suffer severe reductions in growth and survival. Arctic primary producers did not seem to be affected, and macroalgae even showed a preference for low pH conditions through enhanced growth. However, due to a lack of studies representing conditions projected for 2100 and studies including multispecies assemblages, the actual changes in Arctic ecosystem structure and functioning remain a fruitful probing ground for future research.