Monday, July 28, 2008

Climate change hurting marine snails

ABC News Online, Posted Mon Jul 28, 2008 1:10pm AEST 

Updated Mon Jul 28, 2008 3:49pm AEST

Tasmanian scientists are concerned a microscopic marine snail species found in the Southern Ocean may soon die out due to climate change.

The scientists say it is field evidence that sea life in the Southern Ocean is being affected by warmer water.

They took an expedition deep into the Southern Ocean on board the Aurora Australis in February, and collected a number of microscopic marine snails.

The smail shells have been analysed in the laboratory ever since and the scientists have found the snails have dropped half their shell weight over the past decade.

Dr Donna Roberts says it is evidence that climate change is affecting sea life in the Southern Ocean.

"Many researchers have been assuming we would see this kind of result for the past 50 years and this is the first time we've got a measured response to the changing of the ocean chemistry," she said.

Dr Roberts fears if the snails die out there could be dire effects on the food chain.

"It's interesting to know what's going to happen to commercial fish that eat them because a change in their diet might mean a change in where they actually are living, so it's not just we might loose one variety of snail it actually could change the whole eco-system of the southern ocean.

"That's what we're most worried about that it could completely upset our commercial fish stocks."

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