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Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2020-394
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2020-394
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  03 Nov 2020

03 Nov 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Ideas and Perspectives: When ocean acidification experiments are not the same, reproducibility is not tested

Phillip Williamson1, Hans-Otto Pörtner2, Steve Widdicombe3, and Jean-Pierre Gattuso4,5 Phillip Williamson et al.
  • 1School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK
  • 2Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, 27515 Bremerhaven, Germany
  • 3Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Plymouth, PL1 3DH, UK
  • 4Sorbonne Université, CNRS, 06230 Villefranche-sur-mer, France
  • 5Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations, 75006 Paris, France

Abstract. Can experimental studies on the impacts of ocean acidification be trusted? That question was raised in early 2020 when a high-profile paper failed to corroborate previously-observed impacts of high CO2 on the behaviour of coral reef fish. New information on the methodologies used in the replicated studies now provides the explanation: the experimental conditions were substantially different. High sensitivity to test conditions is characteristic of ocean acidification research; such response variability shows that effects are complex, interacting with many other factors. Open-minded assessment of all research results, both negative and positive, remains the best way to develop process-based understanding of those responses. Whilst replication studies can provide valuable insights and challenges, they can unfortunately also be counter-productive to scientific advancement if carried out in a spirit of confrontation rather than collaboration.

Phillip Williamson et al.

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Short summary
The reliability of ocean acidification research was challenged in early 2020 when a high-profile paper failed to corroborate previously-observed impacts of high CO2 on the behaviour of coral reef fish. We now know the reason why: the replicated studies differed in many ways. Open-minded and collaborative assessment of all research results, both negative and positive, remains the best way to develop process-based understanding of the impacts of ocean acidification on marine organisms.
The reliability of ocean acidification research was challenged in early 2020 when a high-profile...
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