Effects of climate change on ocean acidification relevant to the Pacific Islands

Ocean acidification has the potential to significantly impact Pacific Island ecosystems and the ecosystem services they provide. There is compelling evidence that the ocean has become more acidic in response to rising atmospheric CO2 levels. As atmospheric CO2 levels continue to rise the ocean will increasingly become more acidic, and these changes are likely to persist for hundreds to thousands of years. The rate and magnitude of these changes will be directly proportional to the future carbon emission pathway followed. While a low carbon emissions pathway will clearly limit the impacts of ocean acidification, a high carbon emission pathway will lead to conditions that will threaten the long-term viability of important marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs. In the future, increased confidence in projected changes will come through a better understanding of how the large-scale changes are modulated by processes at the island scale. This will be achieved through a combination of sustained long-term measurements and higher-resolution modelling. There is also critical need to understand the impact of multiple environmental stressors, as future ocean acidification will be accompanied by ocean warming and other environmental consequences (e.g. invasive species). Finally, implementation of a viable emission pathway is urgently needed to underpin the development of sustainable adaption and resilience options, and to explore potential engineering and adaptation solutions that may be required to offset long-term ocean acidification changes.

Lenton A., Matear R. J. & Mongin M., 2018. Effects of climate change on ocean acidification relevant to the Pacific Islands. Pacific Marine Climate Change Report Card. Report.

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