Polar trekkers and scientists complete baseline for Arctic Ocean acidification

Sitting in a large hotel room in Ottawa, two of the three people who completed a Catlin Arctic Survey trek to the North Pole wore badges of their gruelling trip – frostbite scars on their faces. What kept them going to their polar destination said Ann Daniels, one of the trekkers, was the thought of the scientific value of the data they were collecting along the route. The three were holding a brief news conference before returning to England.

As the three team members walked an estimated 500 miles across the arctic ice they collected samples of Arctic Ocean water from eighteen different sites. Data from those sites will be put together with data from a static collection point north of Ellef Ringnes Island in the Canadian Arctic. Scientists, including one supported by WWF, used the camp as a place to sample water chemistry, and to gather samples of the building blocks of life in the Arctic Ocean, the tiny plants and animals known collectively as plankton.

All of this effort was being expended to create a starting point for knowledge about the effects of ocean acidification in the Arctic. Ocean acidification has been described as the evil twin of climate change. The build-up of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is changing water chemistry, making oceans more acid. Some important ocean life is unable to tolerate the more acid conditions that are predicted to arise as carbon dioxide levels continue to rise. Craig Stewart, Director of WWF Canada’s Arctic Programme, describes ocean acidification as “Probably the most insidious threat to the future of life in the Arctic.”

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Clive Tesar, WWF – Canada, 18 May 2010. Full article.

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