EXCLUSIVE: £11m climate change study

Ministers will today launch an £11 million study into the effects of climate change on Britain’s oceans after Plymouth-based scientists warned of more acidic seas affecting the food chain.

The five-year investigation will include looking rising levels of carbon monoxide in the ocean as a new report claims the amount of carbon dioxide in the sea has risen at a faster rate than at any time in the last 65 million years.

Marine minister Huw Irranca-Davies will today warn: “Ocean acidification will be one of the biggest environmental concerns of this century, with major and far-reaching impacts.

“We need to understand much more about the scale and nature of the effect CO2 is having on our oceans and marine life.”



A new report by the Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership will also be published today to coincide with the announcement. The report finds ocean acidity – caused by rising levels of CO2 – has increased 30 per cent in the last 200 years, with “serious implications” for sealife and our climate.

The sea naturally absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere but rising emissions of greenhouse gases have upset the chemical balance of the sea. As a result, not only will the oceans absorb less CO2 in future but corals, plankton, shellfish and other vital links in the food chain will be under threat.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is jointly funding the £11 million study with the Natural Environment Research Councils (NERC). It will concentrate on the North East Atlantic, Antarctic and Arctic oceans and study the effects of acidification on biodiversity, habitats, species and wider socio-economic implications.

For the first three years, NERC will provide £7.7 million and Defra £2.5 million with a provisional commitment of £800,000 over two more years.

Westcountry scientists have become world leaders in marine science and have called for action to stop the world’s oceans from becoming more acidic.

Last month scientists from Plymouth Marine Laboratory said urgent measures to were needed. The team is undertaking research into how an increase in carbon dioxide is changing the chemistry of the oceans, threatening all life in the sea.

And earlier this year, research by the University of Exeter found that fish stocks could help address the acidity of the seas. They found that a fish’s gut produces calcium carbonate, a chalky material which makes the ocean acidic after it has been excreted.

In seawater, the substance dissolves to make alkaline and plays a major part in maintaining the ocean’s delicate PH balance – a measure of its acidity.

Lead author Dr Rod Wilson said: “Because of the impact of global climate change, fish are likely to have an even bigger influence on the chemistry of our oceans in future.”

westernmorningnews.co.uk, 28 April 2009. Article.

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OA-ICC HIGHLIGHTS

Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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