Impacts of ocean acidification in the coastal and marine environments of Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS)

Oceans have absorbed one third of the carbon dioxide (CO2) released to the atmosphere from human activities causing the seawater pH to decrease by 0.1 units since the Industrial Revolution.

There is certainty that ocean acidification caused by anthropogenic activities is currently in progress and will increase in accord with rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations. There is medium confidence that these changes with significantly impact marine ecosystems.

Throughout the Caribbean small islands, ocean acidification effects could be exacerbated due to local processes within coastal zones. Ocean surface aragonite saturation state (Ωarg) has declined by around 3% in the Caribbean region relative to pre-industrial levels potentially already impacting tropical marine calcifying organisms. In addition to the effect on living organisms, ocean acidification is likely to diminish the structural integrity of coral reefs through reduced skeletal density, loss of calcium carbonate, and dissolution of high-Mg carbonate cements which help to bind the reef. This would make coastal areas of the Caribbean small islands increasingly more vulnerable to the action of waves and storm surge. This is likely to have knock-on effects to the tourism sector, fisheries and coastal infrastructure.

More studies about the present and projected impacts of ocean acidification on Caribbean small islands are necessary in order to evaluate alternative adaptive strategies accounting for the different island’s environmental, socioeconomic, and political settings.

Melendez M. & Salisbury J., 2017. Impacts of ocean acidification in the coastal and marine environments of Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Caribbean Marine Climate Change Report Card: Science Review 31-39. Article.

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