Ocean Acidification – A review of the new book edited by Gattuso and Hansson

Edited by Jean-Pierre Gattuso and Lina Hansson


352 pages | Paperback

1st edition | September 2011

Price: £37.50 (~€ 46.00)

Ocean acidification refers to the decrease in the pH of the ocean, caused primarily by the uptake of atmospheric CO2. As industrialization continues to increase CO2 concentrations, the surface ocean is responding by taking up more of the gas. The ability to store significant quantities of anthropogenic CO2 helps to slow the rate and extent of climate-change impacts, but with other consequences, especially for the ocean. CO2 reacts with water and results in several chemical changes which lead to a reduction in surface-ocean pH and carbonate ion concentrations. This reaction between CO2 and seawater is raising concerns for the biological, ecological, and biogeochemical health of the world’s oceans. For example, increasing amounts of CO2 within seawater can make life more difficult for marine organisms that live in shells made of calcium carbonate (CaCO3 ), such as clams, oysters and mussels, and for coral reefs, which are built of CaCO3 . Therefore, ocean acidification has implications for a large number of scientific and socioeconomic subdisciplines. Since the rate of increase of atmospheric CO2 emission is likely to be on the rise, it is important to improve the understanding of the impacts of ocean acidification, with the aim of educating the public and evaluating possible actions for reducing these impacts.

Research addressing the effects of elevated CO2 on marine organisms and ecosystems has only recently emerged as a key research priority for marine science, and has begun to gain prominence in political agendas. With a considerable increase in the number of papers on ocean acidification over the last decade, it is an appropriate time to publish the first authoritative book on this interdisciplinary subject. Ocean Acidification provides a synthesis of knowledge on the topic, including research within the European Project on Ocean Acidification (EPOCA). The contributors provide an appraisal of recent understanding of the chemical, biological, biogeochemical, and societal implications of ocean acidification, with a focus on its impact on marine organisms and ecosystems. Also evaluated are the uncertainties, hazards, and thresholds related to ocean acidification at molecular, cellular, organismal, local, and global scales. The text identifies current gaps in the literature, and provides recommendations for future research and international coordination. The main focus of the book is on the component of pH reduction caused by human activity.

The text is edited by two EPOCA contributors: Jean-Pierre Gattuso, research professor at the Laboratoire d’Océanographie de Villefranche, and Lina Hansson, project manager of EPOCA. They succeed in producing a synthesis of current understanding of ocean acidification by bringing together contributions from an esteemed list of authors, including coordinators of key national and international projects on ocean acidification.

This text touches upon all areas related to the history and recent research on ocean acidification and its consequences, and identifies the most pressing questions. It is structured in four parts: chemistry (chapters 2 and 3), biology and ecology (chapters 4-10), biogeochemistry (chapters 11 and 12), and social consequences of ocean acidification (chapters 13 and 14). Books comprised of a collection of research articles can often be disjointed and fail to provided sufficient background material. Here, however, the editors have avoided this by providing an introduction that describes the topic in a broad context, provides a history of ocean acidification research, and outlines potential social and political implications. Ocean Acidification ends with a summary chapter (chapter 15) which reviews key information provided by the proceeding chapters, identifies what is known and unknown about the subject, identifies the ecosystems most at risk, and discusses prospects and recommendations for future research. The well-written chapters are coherently arranged, but can also be read largely independently of the rest of the book.

It is clear from the text that there is substantial evidence that seawater chemistry is changing due to rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations, and that human activities are the root cause. A challenge in spreading the word about the possible impacts of ocean acidification is that the science can appear complex and confusing.  This book helps to partly resolve this problem by providing information and answers to several of the common questions that are now being asked about ocean acidification. The content of the text is appropriate for graduate level students and professional researchers in oceanography and marine biology. It also contains information useful to those in the general marine science community who are interested in the significant impacts of ocean acidification, particularly those who work with the ecosystems which are identified as being most susceptible to ocean acidification: polar seas, the deep sea, and coral reefs. It is the unwritten rule of a book reviewer to complain about something and so I mention that, as someone with limited knowledge of chemistry, I did find some of the chemistry components hard to follow, and would recommend that a good understanding of chemistry is required to fully benefit from reading this book, especially the first few chapters.

It is difficult to predict what the future of the oceans in high CO2 conditions will be, and there is a lot of research still to be done on the topic. Overall, Ocean Acidification provides an excellent summary of the current key knowledge of ocean acidification and will prove to be a very good reference for current researchers of the subject, and a must for those in the science community who have a keen interest in finding out more about this fascinating and important subject.

Clare Green, postdoctoral researcher in climate modelling and oceanography at the School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University

Claire Green, EGU Newsletter, Issue 1, March 2012. Newsletter.

  • Reset


OA-ICC Highlights

%d bloggers like this: