WESTPAC scientists step up efforts to combat ocean acidification

46 Scientists from the region gathered again in Phuket, Thailand, 29-31 August 2016, stepping up their efforts to develop a long term program monitoring the ecological impacts of ocean acidification on coral reef ecosystems for the region.

The three-day WESTPAC event is a follow-up to previous two workshops in 2015, with the aim to review and test, through expert discussions and practical demonstrations either in field or laboratory, a set of consistent, comparable and cost-effective “Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)”, which could be used for monitoring the ecological impacts of ocean acidification on coral reef ecosystems. While these efforts are focused on the establishment of a regional ocean acidification observing network, we are ideally striving for consistency and comparability as part of the Global Ocean Acidification – Observing Network (GOA-ON).

It is not news that the ocean is becoming more acidic due to its absorption of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions since the industrial revolution. Many studies have shown the harmful effects of acidification on ocean-based food security as the lower pH levels make it more difficult for marine calcifying organisms, such as corals, molluscs and calcareous plankton, to form biogenic calcium carbonate (build shells and skeletons).

The implications of this shift in our oceans are immense in this region because the Western Pacific and adjacent regions are among the richest and most productive in the world in terms of marine life. Moreover, most Southeast Asian coastal communities are socially and economically dependent upon coral reef ecosystems and an estimated 70-90% of fish caught in Southeast Asia are dependent on coral reefs.

Throughout three days, scientists were updated with the latest developments on ocean acidification related research and programs at the global level. They were also fully engaged in hands-on exercises on seawater collection and handling for chemistry, Total Alkalinity (TA) and pH measurement, Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS) and Calcification Accretion Units (CAUs) recovery and processing. With all knowledge and skill acquired, participants developed on the last day their concrete workplans for the next intersessional period.

The Sub-Commission would like to extend its sincere thanks to the National Commission of Thailand for UNESCO for its financial support provided for this and previous workshops, the US’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for its continued technical assistance in the development process, the Phuket Marine Biological Monitoring Center (PMBC) for excellent logistics arrangements and research facilities provided for all participants.

WESTPAC News, September 2016. Article.

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