Monday, June 18, 2012

Ocean Acidification could negatively affect 50% of marine organisms by the end of the century

An international partnership representing almost 100 marine science institutions is warning that the ocean faces a triple hit of climate change impacts that could negatively affect 50% of marine organisms by the end of the century.

The partnership which includes the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the UK Ocean Acidification Research Programme, today highlighted its concern about the impacts of the multiple and interacting stressors of warming, acidification and deoxygenation on ocean systems, which will occur in the coming decades as the result of a high CO2 world.

Plymouth Marine Laboratory's Dr Carol Turley OBE, spoke of the issues of acidification and called for more political action to combat climate change. She stated “Often forgotten in such discussions are the ocean and the enormous and diverse resources it provides, including food and other resources including half the oxygen we breathe. She also commented “The health of the ocean is relevant to everyone one of us on Planet Earth and we are concerned about how these three stressors produce a very worrying combination which threatens the ocean and everything it provides us”.

Key challenges for Rio+20
  • Acknowledge that ocean acidification is a direct consequence of increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration. Even at the current concentration (~390 ppm CO2) it may already be having an effect, and important marine ecosystems are likely to be harmed if the atmospheric CO2 concentration reaches 450 ppm.
  • Recognize that significantly reducing the build-up of anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere is the only practicable solution to mitigating ocean acidification.
  • Support the implementation of actions to reduce global CO2 emissions by at least 50% of 1990 levels by 2050 and continue to reduce them thereafter.
  • Reinvigorate action to reduce, or where possible prevent or eliminate at the regional or local scale other environmental stressors, such as over-fishing, pollution and eutrophication which are considered to magnify impacts.
  • Strengthen ocean resilience by allowing the ocean space and time for recovery from human impacts, through designating and ensuring protection of an effective network of marine reserves and by implementing effective marine planning.
  • Support the international coordination of integrated ocean acidification research.
The partnership have also produced a short Ocean Stress Guide that summarises the key issues.

Photo courtesy of Derek Keats via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)