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Interview: Can Marine Life Adapt
To the World’s Acidifying Oceans?

Gretchen Hofmann
Gretchen Hofmann
As the world’s oceans grow more acidic from increased absorption of atmospheric carbon dioxide, marine scientists are confronting a key question: How well can organisms like mollusks, crustaceans, and corals adapt to these more corrosive conditions? One of the leading authorities in this field is University of California, Santa Barbara marine biologist Gretchen Hofmann. Her work in recent years has shown, in fact, that some sea organisms that build shells do seem to have some ability to acclimate to more acidic waters. But in an interview with Yale Environment 360, Hofmann cautions that this adaptive capacity has its limits. The continuing burning of fossil fuels, she says, could push ocean acidity past a tipping point, rendering some mollusks and other organisms unable to construct shells.
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