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Carbon dioxide breaking down marine ecosystems

Scientists capitalize on 'natural' experiment to chronicle how ecosystems will change as oceans continue to acidify

VANCOUVER — If carbon dioxide emissions don’t begin to decline soon, the complex fabric of marine ecosystems will begin fraying — and eventually unravel completely, two new studies conclude.

The diversity of ocean species thins and any survivors’ health declines as the pH of ocean water falls in response to rising carbon dioxide levels, scientists from England and Florida reported February 18 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. What’s more, affected species aren’t restricted to those with shells and calcified support structures — features particularly vulnerable to erosion by corrosive seawater.

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