EPOCA: investigating the impacts of carbon dioxide on our oceans

Several recent policy briefs and information packs (e.g. the ‘Monaco declaration’, and a European Science Foundation policy briefing document) have drawn attention to the impacts of carbon dioxide on our oceans – a problem that is still largely unknown to policy-makers and the general public. Indeed, few people are aware of the potential consequences of the anthropogenic CO2 currently entering the world ocean at a rate of 25 million tonnes of CO2 per day.

The acidity of the oceans has increased by 30% since the beginning of the industrial revolution and a three-fold increase is expected by the end of this century if emissions continue at current rates. The absorption of carbon dioxide by the oceans contributes to mitigation of global warming, but at a cost: when CO2 dissolves in seawater, a series of chemical perturbations occur. Concentrations of inorganic carbon and bicarbonate ion increase, while pH and the concentration of carbonate ions decrease. These chemical changes may have biological consequences – in particular, but not exclusively, on organisms producing a calcium carbonate shell or skeleton.

The European Project on OCean Acidification (EPOCA) was launched in May 2008 as the first large-scale research project devoted to ocean acidification (http://epoca-project.eu). Funded within the EU Seventh Research Programme (FP7) for a four-year period, EPOCA combines European expertise within various fields of marine research, with the goal of elucidating the possible consequences of ocean acidification for organisms, ecosystems and biogeochemical cycling. With a consortium of over one hundred scientists from 27 institutes and 9 countries,* EPOCA is investigating all aspects of this young research area and includes important outreach and dissemination components.

Gattuso, J.-P., & Hansson, L., 2010. EPOCA: investigating the impacts of carbon dioxide on our oceans. Ocean Challenge 17(1): 12-13. Article (subscription required).

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