acidification events. Data synthesis speaks to the importance of using the best, standardized methods in research so that valid comparisons can be made among studies.
Understanding the broad biological effects of ocean acidification, including the influences of other environmental factors like temperature on acidification’s impacts, will strongly benefit from promotion of investigations into ocean acidification’s effects on community and ecosystem structure and function. Studies done in the laboratory or in the field using mesocosms may be inadequate for making predictions of effects of acidification on natural ecosystems and communities. In large measure, a primary shortcoming of controlled (laboratory or mesocosm) studies is that, by focusing on only pH (and pH-related variables in the carbonate system), the influences of other factors like rising temperature and eutrophication that can influence responses to acidification may be missed. Whereas it is commonly difficult to tease apart effects of, say, falling pH and rising temperature, field studies of natural ecosystems that examine the full spectrum of environmental changes are needed to generate realistic understandings of global change and to support predictions of future shifts in community and ecosystem structure, many of which may have important socioeconomic consequences. The understanding and monitoring of ecosystem responses to ocean acidification are still in their infancy, and the Strategic Plan includes an appropriate emphasis on expansion of this research topic
An additional balancing of research approaches is required when decisions are made about the types and numbers of different species to be studied. The Strategic Plan recognizes this point when it contrasts emphasis on breadth versus depth of focus (i.e., the distinction between studies of “an expanding list of species rather than focusing resources on in depth studies of a narrow group of species”). In reality these two approaches are driven by different questions. “In-depth” analyses of single species are needed to elucidate the basic physiological and molecular mechanisms involved in stress from and adaptation to acidification. This mechanistic analysis is critical for elucidating the exact nature of physiological perturbation from acidification and other stressors related to global change. Examination of an “expanded list of species” will of course be needed to evaluate interspecific differences in effects of ocean acidification, to allow predictions of effects at the community and ecosystem levels of biological organization to be developed. In particular, comparative studies will be important to examine the difference in responses among closely related species. For example, wide differences in capacities to regulate pH at sites of calcification were found among reef-building corals, thereby allowing some, but not all species potentially to reduce the effects of acidification (McCulloch et al., 2012). Different forms of calcium carbonate structural materials