Ocean acidity on global meeting agenda

More than 400 scientists from around the globe will meet in Hobart to discuss the impact of a rise in ocean acidity levels.

Ocean acidification might sound like a dry issue but its potential environmental impact will make it a hot topic among international scientific experts meeting in Hobart.

Increased levels of carbon dioxide are reacting with seawater, leading to changes in ocean chemistry and the result could be dire, the CSIRO’s Andrew Lenton said.

He will be one of about 400 scientists from more than 30 countries meeting in the southern capital from Tuesday for The Oceans in a High CO2 World Symposium – the first of its kind ever held in the southern hemisphere.

Attendees will discuss the results of recent studies across the Indian, Pacific and Southern Oceans, along with the Tasman Sea, which show changes in acidification levels.

“These are significant research outcomes for Australia as carbon emissions rise,” Dr Lenton said.

“The next step is to correlate past, present and likely future influences on the marine ecosystem and extend our studies into risk and mitigation options, particularly where there are social, economic and environmental interests at the coasts and in our iconic marine parks.”

Understanding the impacts, in combination with ongoing climate change research, is essential for effective management of marine resources, he added.

“The two fields of research go hand in hand, with the oceans playing a critical role slowing the rate of climate change by taking up and sequestering around one third of the carbon emitted annually into the atmosphere.

Many organisms will be forced to choose between ocean acidification and warming, Dr Lenton said.

“For example, some organisms that migrate southward may experience conditions that are more favourable in terms of ocean temperature but less attractive in terms of ocean pH.

“For other organisms such as seagrasses there is potential to do better in the future due to ocean acidification but worse under ocean warming.”

The symposium runs until Friday.

AAP, via SBS, 2 May 2016. Article.


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