Scientists chart out future of ocean acidification research in Africa at high-level conference in Liberia

The OA-Africa side event at the Blue Oceans Conference featured talks on ocean acidification research in Africa, capacity building efforts, and the SDG 14.3 process (Photo: Alicia Cheripka, NOAA)

Scientists from all over the African continent convened in Monrovia, Liberia, during a side event at the Blue Oceans Conference at the end of March to discuss how to tackle ocean acidification. The group of scientists are part of Ocean Acidification Africa (OA-Africa), a network supported by the IAEA through its Ocean Acidification International Coordination Centre (OA-ICC).

During the side event, several OA-Africa members presented the needs and challenges faced by different African regions with regards to ocean acidification research. Recognised as a major threat to vital marine ecosystems, ocean acidification can vary in its impacts. Research that addresses region-specific impacts of ocean acidification is crucial to inform decisions mitigating its harmful effects. Recent research shows that ocean acidification has the potential to adversely affect fisheries, aquaculture and coral reefs. This is especially important for the many African countries where coastal and marine ecosystems provide livelihoods and sources of food. OA-Africa’s research agenda aims to understand what this means for countries in Africa where the status of ocean acidification and its impacts on local species are not yet well understood. The white papers which OA-Africa scientists presented at the side event provide a vision for where research on the Continent should head, enabling better reporting towards the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14.3, which specifically targets ocean acidification.

“Nuclear and isotopic techniques are particularly important tools to assess the effects of ocean acidification on marine organisms and to better understand a host of other pressing environmental issues” said Peter Swarzenski of the IAEA Environment Laboratories in Monaco, who spoke at the OA-Africa side event and at the Blue Oceans Conference. The conference discussions also addressed topics such as marine plastic pollution, sustainable fisheries, and the blue economy.

Since its inception in 2015, OA-Africa has grown to comprise more than 100 scientists across the continent. Their Steering Committee met directly after the closure of the Blue Oceans Conference to discuss the future of ocean acidification studies in Africa. “African countries are among the most vulnerable to climate change and ocean acidification. OA-Africa is committed to keep raising awareness and fill research gaps in its members’ countries,” remarked Sheck Sherif, co-chair of OA-Africa.

OA-Africa is part of a larger IAEA-supported network called the Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network (GOA-ON) which aims to increase monitoring in areas where ocean acidification data is currently scarce.


As the ocean absorbs carbon dioxide (CO2) released into the atmosphere by human activities, the carbonate chemistry and acidity of seawater are modified in a process known as ocean acidification. A growing number of studies indicate potential negative impacts on marine organisms, with calcifying organisms such as corals and mollusks being particularly sensitive to changes in seawater chemistry. Scientists at the IAEA’s Environment Laboratories in Monaco are using nuclear and isotopic techniques to investigate the impacts of ocean acidification and its interaction with other environmental stressors.

International Atomic Energy Agency, 2 April 2019. Article.

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