Marine life ‘at risk’ from C02

THE Arctic Ocean could become corrosive to marine life within a matter of decades, according to leading scientists who will be attending a critical meeting in Plymouth next week.

More than 100 marine scientists specialising in ocean acidification will gather at the Plymouth University on Monday to discuss their research into the dramatic effects of excess carbon dioxide being absorbed from the atmosphere into the oceans.

Ocean acidification, often referred to as “the other C02 problem”, is a relatively recently recognised consequence of C02 emissions and threatens to corrode shell or skeleton-forming marine organisms. The oceans are a natural sink for C02 and, because of their sheer collective size, were once thought too big to be affected by humans.

Scientific research has shown this not to be the case and scientists now believe oceans have reached the point where they can no longer absorb the gas without the oceans and the life they contain being affected.

Dr Carol Turley, senior scientist at Plymouth Marine Laboratory, said: “Ocean acidification is real, it’s happening and it’s happening now, so it is essential for us to gain as much insight as possible to help us understand and plan for the effects that are inevitable.

“Even small changes are likely to have major impacts on the ocean and its food webs, including the oxygen we breathe and the fish we eat, and that means it will affect all of us.”

The scientists attending the four-day conference in Plymouth all work under the European Project on OCean Acidification (EPOCA), a pan-European umbrella funded by the European Union and representing institutions and countries across Europe.

Chemists, biologists, ecologists and other scientists have worked together to investigate how the lowering of ocean pH and the move towards acidity will affect the fragile balances that exist in the sea.

Their preliminary conclusions and longer-term predictions suggest the Arctic Ocean’s move to acidity will be quicker than elsewhere and that it is “inevitable”.

Some scientists have looked at the effects of this acidification on individual species in laboratory conditions, while another group has been working in the Arctic Circle to check their results against the animals in natural conditions.

Dr Jean-Pierre Gattuso, senior scientist at the French CNRS, the meeting’s lead organiser, said: “EPOCA has been working within the Arctic Ocean and some of those results will be presented at the meeting. We know that marine organisms are being affected and this is extremely worrying.

“The Arctic seas are home to some of the most magnificent wildlife on the planet; at the moment, the great whales may not be affected directly, but the planktonic food they need for survival is right in the firing line.

“But while we have looked more closely at the Arctic, it is not just the polar seas that will be affected, this is a global problem that requires a global initiative to meet it.”, 26 June 2009. Article.

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