Ocean acidification studied by former Narooma local

Former Narooma area local Sam Noonan is a marine biologist looking at the topical issue of ocean acidification.

The documentary “Acid Ocean” shown recently on SBS Television about this scary scenario featured Sam, a marine biologist working at the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

Sam, whose mother is a Tilba resident, was apparently instrumental and heavily involved with the documentary and was also recently featured in an article in the Seattle Times.

Sam was raised in the Tilba district, attended Central Tilba Area School and then Narooma High until the end of Year 9,

He finished his high schooling at boarding school in Canberra in 2002.

Sam Noonan moved to Townsville in 2006 to pursue studies in marine biology at James Cook University, he blinked, and it was almost eight years later!

“I have been working at the Australian Institute of Marine Science for a little over three years now as a part of a research team that mainly focuses on the ecological effects of ocean acidification on coral reefs, and I work on the corals themselves mainly,” he said.

“We also conduct research on the effects of land-use practices, including run-off of fertilisers and pesticides, sediments from land clearing etc., on the Great Barrier Reef, but the acidification research takes up most of my time.

“I am lucky enough to travel up to PNG twice a year to visit the CO2 bubble sites that featured in the documentary.”

He said ocean acidification occurred as the world’s oceans absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

“It’s the same scientific law – Henry’s gas law – that causes a can of Coke to go flat after it is opened,” he explained.

“The Coke inside an unopened can is saturated with carbon dioxide but it is unable to escape until you open the can.

“Once opened, it fizzes out as the dissolved carbon dioxide in the Coke equals the amount that is in the atmosphere.

“The reverse is occurring in the world’s ocean’s; as carbon dioxide is put into the atmosphere, more is dissolved into the oceans to maintain the equilibrium.

“Given the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide is increasing, this problem is projected to be exacerbated into the future.”

The Australian Institute of Marine Science researchers are using the bubble sites in Papua New Guinea as a kind of window to the future to see what may be install for coral reefs in the coming decades.

Sam said the gas at the bubble sites was more than 99 per cent pure carbon dioxide and they were the only such sites known on coral reefs in the world.

“Having access to these sites, where the reef is otherwise the same as others in the area, allows us to study ecological processes that are not able to be replicated in the lab,” he said.

“There is a gradient of seawater pH at the bubble sites and we restrict our work to areas with values expected by the IPCC before the end of the century.

“That being said, ocean acidification is not just a future problem, as the changes have already been rigorously documented.

“We’re just trying to find out what will become of coral reefs in the future to try and prevent things from getting too bad.”

The documentary “Acid Ocean” can still be viewed online at SBS On Demand.

The GetUp organisation meanwhile is calling this Sunday, November 17 a “National Day of Climate Action” and local youth leader Ben Potter us organising one of the “Climate Catch Up” at Bar Beach, Narooma on that day.

Ocean acidification is one of the concerns held by Ben and the other local GetUp members.

It is hoping tens of thousands of Australians will show their support for stronger action on climate change by participating in the National Day of Climate Action.

Find out more and RSVP to a local event in your area by clicking on https://www.getup.org.au/climate

At every Climate Catch Up, GetUp members will be wearing bright, heatwave-coloured clothes and they’ll be taking photos on the day to show that they’re all part of one, nationwide movement of people asking for stronger action on climate change.

Stan Gorton, Narooma News, 14 November 2013. Article.

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