(Oceanography) Introduction to this special issue on ocean acidification: the pathway from science to policy

Ocean acidification (OA) is a progressive decrease in the pH of seawater over decades, caused primarily by uptake of excess atmospheric CO2 and accompanied by changes in seawater carbonate chemistry. Scientific studies designed to examine the effects of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions on global carbon fluxes have also led to the detection of OA. During the last decade, this phenomenon has surged to the attention of not only scientists but also policymakers and the public.

OA chemistry is well understood and follows first principles of acid-base chemistry (e.g., Gattuso and Hansson, 2011; Box 1 in McLaughlin et al.). Today, total anthropogenic release of CO2 exceeds nine petagrams of carbon annually, with ~85% coming directly from industrial sources and ~15% from changes in land use. The three major sinks for this CO2 are: ~46% of CO2 emitted remains in the atmosphere, ~29% is absorbed by the terrestrial biosphere, and the ocean absorbs the remaining ~26% (Le Quéré et al., 2014), resulting in OA. Since the Industrial Revolution, global average surface ocean pH has dropped 0.1 unit (about a 30% increase in acidity; IPCC, 2013), and it is expected to drop another 0.3 to 0.4 units by 2100 (100–150% increase in acidity) if CO2 emissions continue in a business-as-usual scenario (Orr et al., 2005; IPCC, 2013). Some areas of the ocean, such as coastal regions, upwelling zones, and polar seas, may be subjected to much greater chemical perturbations from OA than indicated by such globally averaged values (e.g., Feely et al., 2008; Mathis et al.). (…)

Mathis J.T., Cooley S. R., Yates K. K. & Williamson P., 2015. Introduction to this special issue on ocean acidification: The pathway from science to policy. Oceanography 28(2):10–15. Article.

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