Krill, one of the most important organisms in the southern oceans are dying off due to climate change, according to an Australian government biologist who has spent the last 25 years studying the tiny crustaceans. Dr. So Kawaguchi told the New York Times that carbon emissions around the world will reduce the hatch rates of krill significantly over the next 100 years, and in the Southern Ocean, where krill are depended upon by fish, squid, whales, seals, penguins and other sea life, the absence of this important food source will have detrimental effects throughout the oceanic food chain.
“Higher levels of carbon dioxide in the water mean greater levels of ocean acidification,” Dr. Kawaguchi, told the Times. “This interrupts the physiology of krill. It stops the eggs hatching, or the larvae developing.” Kawaguchi’s laboratory has research tanks that are the only tanks in the world that hatch and breed krill. He simulates increased acidification conditions by pumping carbon dioxide into the tanks and noted that CO2 disrupts the early stages of the life of the krill.
Kawaguchi says that if carbon emissions are not reduced significantly, he predicts that by 2100 there will be a 20 to 70 percent reduction in Antarctic krill, and by 2300 there will be no krill reproduction in the Southern Ocean.