Europe tackles ocean acidification

By absorbing large amounts of CO2 and thus limiting the quantity of atmospheric greenhouse gases, oceans have long been partners in the fight against global warming. But under the surface, that’s not necessarily good news.

Every day, global fossil fuel combustion produces nearly 11 kg of carbon dioxide (CO2) per person. Four of these are absorbed by the oceans. Until recently, this was thought to be a good thing, considering that this absorption limits the expected effects of climate change. Yet this phenomenon has other consequences: the absorbed CO2 acidifies the oceans, i.e., its pH decreases. This could lead, among other things, to the disappearance of some marine organisms, rendered incapable of forming a shell or calcareous skeleton in an overly acidic environment. The objectives of EPOCA (European Project on Ocean Acidification) are to better understand this acidification and its effects on ocean life and ecosystems. The project was officially launched at a kick-off meeting in Nice June 10-13, a few days after World Ocean Day (June 8).
In December 2006, the European Commission sent out a call for proposals for measuring ocean acidification and its consequences. In response, Jean-Pierre Gattuso from LOV,1 assembled a hundred or so researchers from 27 European research institutions, including two CNRS laboratories (the Station biologique de Roscoff and CEREGE, in Aix-en-Provence.)

EPOCA covers four areas. The first is an overview of the phenomenon, to determine the speed at which pH is dropping and what the pH variations were over the past millennia. Another research topic, accounting for half of EPOCA’s research budget, is to study the consequences of ocean acidification on marine organisms and ecosystems. The third topic is to model future ocean acidification and predict the state of the oceans in 2100. The final focus is to produce an intelligible synthesis of the data in order to assist politicians in determining strategies for limiting the effects of greenhouse gas emissions. “By launching projects like this, the European Commission intends to be well-equipped when it participates in the post-Kyoto negotiations, which have already begun,” says Gattuso, the consortium’s coordinator.

Coralie Hancok, CNRS International Magazine 11: 40. Article.
Notes :

1. Laboratoire d’océanographie de Villefranche (CNRS / Université Pierre et Marie Curie-Paris-VI).

Contact :

Jean-Pierre Gattuso,
LOV, Villefranche.

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