Abstract: Global change, including ocean acidification, poses a serious threat to marine life. Ocean chemistry is changing 100 times faster than any period in the last 650,000 years and the oceans are already 30 % more acidic than 250 years ago. The effects of ocean acidification include reductions in growth, and altered developmental and physiological processes in marine organisms. Marine invertebrates are fundamental to global ecosystem function and provide significant goods and services to human societies; however, they are particularly susceptible to ocean acidification, especially highly calcifying taxa such as molluscs, echinoderms and corals. I will highlight my research on the effects of ocean acidification and carbonate saturation state on both calcifying and non-calcifying organisms including commercially important and iconic coral reef species. Furthermore, I will demonstrate that rising CO2 impairs marine invertebrate behaviour including essential predator-escape responses, and discuss potential mechanisms. This previously unrecognized impact of ocean acidification on invertebrate behaviour could have far-reaching consequences for ecological processes and ecosystem function as important as the effects on growth and calcification. The potentially ubiquitous mechanism of behavioural impairment among marine organisms means altered tropic interactions may have global implications for marine food webs, ecosystem dynamics and fisheries in a rising-CO2 world.
Biography: Dr Sue-Ann Watson is a research associate at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University. Her research focuses on the ecological effects of global change, particularly ocean acidification, and evolutionary responses to environmental gradients in marine organisms. Her broad research interests include ecology, behaviour, physiology and the potential for acclimation and adaptation to environmental change, particularly in marine invertebrates. Sue-Ann has undertaken a broad range of marine science research including tropical, temperate, polar and deep-sea projects. Sue-Ann received her doctorate from the University of Southampton National Oceanography Centre in collaboration with the British Antarctic Survey, and recently led an Ocean Acidification symposium at the 2014 Australian Marine Sciences Association conference.