Increasing ocean acidification ushering era of uncertainty for Arctic, says report

(Olivier Morin/AFP/Getty Images)

If left unchecked, acidification levels in the Arctic Ocean will have significant consequences for northern communities as well as the rest of the globe says a report released this week.

The report, 2018 Arctic Ocean Acidification Assessment, was put together by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), a working group of the Arctic Council, and was released at the 2018 Arctic Biodiversity Congress in Rovaniemi, Finland on Wednesday.

The assessment was based on a series of case studies from different regions of the Arctic including Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Norway and the Barents Sea. In all cases, they projected unchecked acidification levels would have grave impacts on all areas in coming years.

“Overall, the case studies show that effects of acidification, in combination with other stressors, are highly uncertain,” said AMAP in a news release. “This uncertainty underscores the urgent need for increased monitoring in the region, and for research that looks at the effects on species of a number of environmental stressors acting in combination.”

Acidification impacts

Rising ocean acidification is primarily driven by rising greenhouse gas emissions.

Changing ocean chemistry has a suite of cascading impacts: it can interrupt the food chain, alter predator-prey relationships and can even impact how marine life develops. The impacts of this in fragile environments like North, are particularly worrying, AMAP says.

“Falling ocean pH levels – which are changing most quickly in the Arctic – are acting in tandem with other environmental stressors, such as rising air and sea temperatures, to drive significant changes in marine ecosystems, with impacts on the communities that depend upon them,” they said.

Assessing environmental threats

AMAP, like other Arctic Council working groups, are made of up experts that come together to examine particular areas of concern in the North. AMAP’s mandate is to assess polltion threats and their affects on Arctic peoples and the environment and to give advice to Arctic ministers on actions needed to respond and mitigate some of these threats.

The report released this week is an update to a previous 2013 AMAP assessment.

Around four-hundred and fifty experts are attending the Arctic Biodiveristy Congress in Rovaniemi.

The conference ends October 12.

Eilís Quinn, Radio Canada International, 15 October 2018. Article.

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