How does rising atmospheric CO2 affect marine organisms?

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Ecosystem Adaptation to Millennial-Scale Climate Change
Cannariato, K.G., Kennett, J.P. and Behl, R.J.  1999.  Biotic response to late Quaternary rapid climate switches in Santa Barbara Basin: Ecological and evolutionary implications.  Geology 27: 63-66.

What was done
The authors investigated the character, magnitude and speed of biotic responses of benthic foraminifera to millennial-scale climate oscillations.  Data for their analysis were obtained from an ocean sediment core in the Northeast Pacific and extended back in time for 60,000 years.

What was learned
A number of rapid climatic switches were noted throughout the course of the 60,000-year record, representing periods of "extreme environmental variability."  However, the authors report that "no extinctions" were observed and that the benthic ecosystems "appear to be both resilient and robust in response to rapid and often extreme environmental conditions."  In addition, they note that faunal turnovers occurred within decades throughout the record "without extinction or speciation."

What it means
It has been suggested that potential CO2-induced global warming may occur at a rate much faster than some species can tolerate, resulting in ecosystem change and, possibly, species extinction.  However, as the authors of this paper note, the implications of their analysis suggest that "broad segments of the biosphere are well adapted to rapid climate change."

Reviewed 15 March 1999