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Central Coast Scientist Finds Algae Are Resilient Despite Climate Change

Photo by Athena Maguire
Red abalone on coralline algae

A Central Coast scientist has found that algae are resilient despite the effect of climate change on the ocean, which is good news for large sea snails known as abalone.

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo biologist Dr. Jennifer O’Leary took a closer look at ocean acidification, which is caused by climate change. This happens when carbon dioxide is absorbed by seawater and chemical reactions increase the acidity of the water. She says previous studies have shown that coralline algae – which are critical to abalone’s ability to reproduce -- are sensitive to ocean acidification.

“We were very surprised in this study that even after four months of subjecting this algae to really extreme levels of ocean acidification that it was still able to provide the chemical signal, which was like a scent, to the baby abalone,” she said.

A possible explanation is that organisms in California may be able to better withstand ocean acidification because they naturally live in highly variable physical conditions.