How does rising atmospheric CO2 affect marine organisms?

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Penguins and Polar Climate
Smith, R.C., Ainley, D., Baker, K., Domack, E., Emslie, S., Fraser, B., Kennett, J., Leventer, A., Mosley-Thompson, E., Stammerjohn, S. and Vernet M.  1999.  Marine ecosystem sensitivity to climate change.  BioScience 49: 393-404.

What was done
The authors studied historical observations and paleoecological records to develop an understanding of ecological transitions in the western Antarctic Peninsula over a number of different time scales.

What was learned
A succession of 200- to 300-year cycles are seen in the paleoclimate records of the western Antarctic Peninsula.  There are also 200- to 300-year cyclical fluctuations in organic matter preservation in the region that result from similar cycles in primary productivity, which is believed to be due to increasing productivity during periods of warming.  Over the past 500 years, Adelie penguins have continuously inhabited the region around Palmer Station; but in response to the dramatic warming of the past several decades, chinstrap penguins, followed by gentoo penguins, have begun to take up residence there as well.

What it means
As is typical of many places on earth, when the temperature rises, so too does ecosystem primary productivity and biodiversity; and to this rule the western Antarctic Peninsula appears to be no exception.

Reviewed 1 May 2000