Marine scientist talks of challenges posed by ocean acidification

A scientist with the federal Pacific Marine Environmental Lab says rising ocean acidification is a complex problem posing a threat to Alaska’s coastal waters, but if concerted, well-coordinated steps are taken, Alaska’s fisheries are sustainable.

Jeremy Mathis summed up his message to participants in the Alaska Marine Science Symposium in Anchorage on Jan. 22 like this: “The sky is not falling, but we do know that there is a major catastrophic event coming if changes are not implemented.”

Mathis, who is also an affiliate professor with the Institute of Marine Science at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, talked about the dire affects of ocean acidification on calcifying species, which include oysters, clams, sea urchins, shallow water corals, deep sea corals and calcareous plankton.

He noted that pteropods, a major food source for North Pacific juvenile salmon, are also very sensitive to ocean acidification. These tiny sea creatures are also eaten by a number of organisms ranging from krill to whales. Mathis said scientists have already documented the effect of ocean acidification on pteropods in oceans off of Antarctica and will begin a project this year, with UAF scientists, to study how pteropods in the Gulf of Alaska are reacting to changes in the pH of those waters.

Mathis says changes in the acidity of the marine environment may affect respiration, calcification, photosynthesis and reproduction of various marine organisms.

More information about this subject is posted at the Pacific Marine Environmental Lab’s website: http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/co2/

New strategies of dealing with ocean acidification include construction of multi-million dollar network of moorings that will be capable of providing early warning data to stakeholders and policymakers throughout Alaska and the rest of the country. Mathis said the first of two buoys for this network are to be deployed in Alaska in February, funded through a $2.7 million allocation from the Alaska Legislature. Information received by the Pacific Marine Environmental Lab from these buoys will be posted online on the Alaska Ocean Observing System website, www.aoos.org

Fishermen’s News Online, 23 January 2013. Article.

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