New buoy network could help determine long-term impacts of ocean acidification

A major education effort by scientists and fishermen is leading to the conclusion that if Ocean Acidification is not a problem yet,  it’s about to be.  And a proposal that will likely be before the legislature next session is looking for money to enlarge the state’s Ocean Acidification observation network with new monitoring buoys to provide an early warning system that could help avoid an immediate fishing disaster – and help determine the long-term impacts of acidification.

Here’s the problem with ocean acidification:   When there’s too much Carbon Dioxide – or CO2 — in the air,   too much of it gets into the water.  Then, CO2 increases the acidity of the seawater,  which keeps calcium carbonate from being available.  Calcium Carbonate is what forms the shells of Oysters and Clams – and the skeletons of many other marine organisms. If that layer of the food chain fails,  everything above it will be at risk.

Dr. Jeremy Mathis is an Assistant Professor of Chemical Oceanography at the UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.   He says measurements of acid levels are now not much more than a series of snapshots – readings taken when fishermen or university boats sample water from time to time.  That data has shown some alarming trends,  But he says it’s very hard to put those numbers into context.

“What’s so great about this buoy network that we’ve proposed is that these buoys sit in the water 365 days of the year,  they’re making continuous measurements and they’re sending the measurements back in real time to the lab.   And so we’re getting instantaneous data from them all the time – and it fills in those gaps for us so we understand not only the season cycles of how the ocean changes over the course of the year, but we can also see those inter-annual trends, how the water is changing over those longer time scales,” Mathis said.

Two buoys are currently at work – one near Resurrection Bay,  the other just to the west of Bristol Bay.   But Mathis says the $2.7 million budget request will expand the observation network by three more monitoring stations – one near Kodiak Island, one in Southeast and one more in the Bering Sea.

… 

Dave Donaldson, alaskapublic.org, 28 November 2011, Full article.

 

 

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