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Scientists from the U.S., Mexico, and Cuba met to start combating acidification in the Gulf of Mexico

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Colorful map of gulf waters between the U.S., Mexico and Cuba. The water is blue and the the land is green.
A team of international scientists from along the Gulf of Mexico in the U.S., Mexico, and Cuba recently met to start addressing the socioeconomic impacts of ocean acidification – that’s when carbon dioxide from the atmosphere changes the pH balance of a water body.

A team of international scientists from along the Gulf of Mexico in the U.S., Mexico, and Cuba recently met to start addressing the socioeconomic impacts of ocean acidification — that’s when carbon dioxide from the atmosphere changes the pH balance of a water body.

Jorge Brenner, the executive director of the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System, said that the more acidic water becomes, the more difficult it is for some marine organisms to produce hardened structures.

“In the case of [an] oyster, well, that’s the shell. In the case of a shrimp, that’s the exoskeleton. The case of a coral is the whole organism that depends on the structure that they create. So, as water becomes more acidic, those structures might be more brittle and not able to be as hard as they typically are in more neutral waters,” Brenner said.

He said acidification is “not terribly bad right now” in the Gulf, but due to climate change, the water will likely become more acidic in the future. Brenner added that the water moves and is continuous, so it’s not going to be the same everywhere along the Gulf.

“Different shallow areas, or deeper areas, or areas where there is more current and water masses move more might have a better way to cope with acidification,” Brenner said.

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Surveying ocean acidification on the Northwest Atlantic shelf

In August of 2022, Prof. Samantha Siedlecki and Prof. Craig Tobias, along with students Halle Berger and Alex Frenzel, went on the East Coast Ocean Acidification Cruise (ECOA-3). The cruise was led by scientists at the University of New Hampshire, joined through transdisciplinary partnerships with other universities, aboard the NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown. The UConn Avery Point members joined the cruise to investigate the contribution of sediments to carbon chemistry and how that ultimately impacts ocean acidification.

“Core team” on the deck of NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown with multi-core sampler. Left to right: Halle Berger, Samantha Siedlecki, Craig Tobias, Alex Frenzel

Sam, Craig, Halle and Alex were the sediment coring team. The cores go all the way down to the bottom of the ocean and collect both the upper part of the sediment and the layer of water above it. This way, it is possible to understand chemical reactions in this zone between the sediments and the water above it. “The idea here is to understand how sediments control the chemistry of bottom water. There are sediment reactions that could help buffer acidity. But it’s unclear how sediments talk to the water above it or how that communication might change in the future” says Craig. You can learn more on the Facebook page of research vessel Ronald H. Brown.

These measurements are valuable information because they are not only timestamps of what is happening at the moment of collection. Increasing the number of observations and fine-tuning the measurements of these chemical processes in bottom waters helps the research of modelers, like Sam. Models are important to test our understanding of ocean processes. We need more measurements like this to more accurately predict marine climate change. Part of Sam’s work is to use this information into regional ocean models to better constrain the role of sediments in the chemistry of the ocean.

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PhDs study pH levels that could threaten fragile ecosystem of 17 separate reefs and banks along the Texas Gulf Coast


Is ocean acidification affecting the Texas coast’s Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary? Texas A&M University scientists collected data Oct. 25­–28 in the Gulf of Mexico to help answer this question and more, as the fate of the unique and fragile Flower Garden Banks ecosystem is potentially threatened by climate change and acidification.

“Ocean acidification is a process that affects the entire ocean and is driven by the combined effects of climate change and CO2 emissions, which are believed to increase to oceanic pH levels,” said cruise chief scientist Steven DiMarco, professor in Texas A&M’s Department of Oceanography and Department of Ocean Engineering, and Geochemical and Environmental Research Group (GERG) scientist.

Funded by the Ocean Acidification Program of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and sailing on the RV Pelican, the four-day research cruise investigated the impact of ocean acidification in the coastal ocean environmental of the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. It is the third of four planned cruises, with two completed in 2021 and one upcoming in February 2023.

“The decreased pH levels can have catastrophic effect on marine organisms, particularly calcifying organisms that build and maintain shells, skeletons, and calcium carbonate structures,” DiMarco said.

Located about 100 miles off the coasts of Texas and Louisiana, the Flower Garden Banks sanctuary spans 17 separate reefs and banks, including thriving shallow-water coral reefs, algal-sponge communities, and deeper mesophotic reefs full of black coral, octocoral and algal nodule habitats. Together, the reefs create a chain of protected habitats for ecologically and economically important species across the northwestern Gulf of Mexico.

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Here’s why the West Coast Dungeness crab season has been delayed

A crab pot with caught Dungeness crab inside, off the port of Port Orford.

Oregon’s most valuable commercial fishery, Dungeness crab, will have its season delayed from its traditional Dec. 1 start date because of low meat yields.

Testing shows the crabs in some ocean areas off the West Coast don’t have enough meat in them to satisfy the commercial market.

In some areas, testing also showed elevated levels of the naturally occurring toxin domoic acid, which can make the crabs unsafe to eat.

Carin Braby, marine resources program manager with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said officials will continue to test for meat yield and domoic acid in the coming weeks, and the results will determine whether the season needs to be delayed beyond Dec. 16. Right now, she said, some parts of the Oregon coast still have biotoxins from a big biotoxin event this fall, and other areas have crabs with low meat fill.

Hugh Link, the outgoing director of the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission, said it’s better for everyone involved in the industry if the meat yield is high before fishing begins.

“We like to wait until they’re ready with the best possible meat fill before we open up the season,” he said. “It’s a win-win-win for everybody, the fishermen, the processors and the consumer.”

Braby said phytoplankton blooms happen every year, but now they are often accompanied by harmful algal blooms that produce the domoic acid toxin.

“The research that’s been done on those suggests that we will see that more and more with climate change,” she said. “The warmer conditions and the acidified water will promote the harmful algal bloom species and the toxin production. It’s going to get incrementally worse.

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Role of government in ocean acidification

The oceans are more acidic now than they have been for at least 300m years, due to carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels, and a mass extinction of key species may already be almost inevitable as a result, leading marine scientists warning the general public and government to take action. An international audit of the health of the oceans has found that overfishing and pollution are also contributing to the crisis. In the warning yet of the threat to ocean health, the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) said: “This [acidification] is unprecedented in the Earth’s known history. We are entering an unknown territory of marine ecosystem change, and exposing organisms to intolerable evolutionary pressure. The next mass extinction may have already begun.” 

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Coral reefs near Texas may not escape greater damage from climate change

Lobed star coral, a threatened species at Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. National Ocean Service (NOS)

Coral reefs in the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary 100 miles off the Texas coast have remained healthier than many of their counterparts around the world in the face of climate change. But warming waters in the Gulf of Mexico could change that, warn scientists at Rice University, the University of Colorado Boulder and Louisiana State University in a recent paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research (JGR) Biosciences.

The researchers used models maintained by the National Center for Atmospheric Research to simulate climate warming from 2015 to 2100 under two scenarios. The first was “business as usual,” with very high emissions, and the second involved reduction of emissions to high levels. An analysis of regional warming patterns in each suggested the Gulf of Mexico could see critically warm temperatures as early as 2050. The key determinant of coral mortality in each scenario is the number of months corals are exposed to prolonged temperatures hotter than the hottest average months projected for 2015-2034.

One of the clear findings is that it matters which scenario prevails, according to Sylvia Dee, a climate modeling expert at Rice University and one of the authors, who spoke with Texas Climate News. The research indicates that curbing emissions during the next 10 to 20 years could make a big difference for these reefs.

Reef-building hard corals host photosynthetic algae that help feed the coral organisms. Corals also rely on carbonate minerals in seawater to construct their hard skeletons. Climate-change-related warming temperatures and increased acidification in the ocean threaten these processes. Prolonged, abnormally warm temperatures, for example, can cause corals to expel their algae, a phenomenon known as bleaching. If water temperatures drop, corals take back the algae and recover. If temperatures remain high enough, corals eventually starve.

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Greenhouse gas concentrations higher than in all of human civilisation

The latest data from the Copernicus Climate Change Service shows that Europe just had the warmest October on record, with temperatures almost two degrees above the 1991-2020 average.

The warming that we are seeing here on land would be even more rapid if it wasn’t for the oceans. It’s calculated that they are absorbing up to 90% of the excess heat in the atmosphere trapped by greenhouse gases. And they are suffering.

The Mediterranean has suffered repeated heatwaves over the past couple of years and Jean-Pierre Gattuso, the CNRS Research Director, at the Laboratoire D’océanographie De Villefranche-Sur-Mer describes what impact that is having.

“The main effect of marine heat waves is massive mortality of invertebrates and plants, mollusks, sponges, and corals. Between the surface and 50 metres in depth, there are many invertebrates and plants that are affected negatively and die.”

Marine life in the Mediterranean under threat from successive heatwaves

But do the decisions that are taken at COP27, make any difference and are they really going to change things like acidification and heatwaves? Jean-Pierre Gattuso again. 

“The negotiations that are taking place at COP 27 are obviously extremely important. The scenarios that are being projected by the IPCC (The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) show that if the Paris agreement is implemented quickly and fully, we can stabilize temperatures and ocean acidification. This does not mean that we will return to the situation as it was before. It means we can stop the warming and stop the increase in acidity.”

The atmosphere at COP27 is business-like because everybody knows that the window is closing to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement and limit global warming to well below two degrees Celsius.

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Ocean acidification: COP27 event highlights IAEA capacity building to help African communities at risk

Scene from the IAEA side event on Ocean Acidification Adaptation and Resilience in Africa, held at its #Atoms4Climate pavilion at COP27. (Photo: A.Evrensel/IAEA)

The ocean plays a major role in the carbon cycle and absorbs about 30 per cent of all human-made CO2 emitted into the atmosphere each year. Over the last few decades, the amount of CO2 released due to human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, has drastically increased. As a result, the chemistry of the ocean is changing, which can have lasting effects on the health of marine organisms and ecosystems, and subsequently for populations who depend on these for their livelihoods. 

Nuclear and isotopic techniques can help assess the impacts of ocean acidification on the livelihoods of coastal African populations, participants heard at an IAEA event on the sidelines of the 27th Annual UN Climate Change Conference, COP27, today.

Coastal areas that already face issues such as overfishing, pollution and habitat destruction are at high risk of being affected by ocean acidification. In Africa, fisheries and aquaculture currently contribute around USD $24 billion to the economy, employing more than 12 million people and providing sustenance to millions of people around the continent. Additionally, demand for fish and ocean products has increased significantly and is expected to further increase 30 per cent by 2030. The combination of already delicate ocean health and ocean acidification puts communities that are heavily reliant on fisheries and ocean products – mostly rural coastal African populations – at significant risk.

“Isotopic techniques are very powerful methods to assess ocean acidification risk to marine organisms and ecosystems,” said Jana Friedrich, Head of the Radioecology Laboratory at the IAEA Marine Environment Laboratories. “Accurate data allows us to better equip regional communities with the means necessary to address the impacts of ocean acidification, for example on local seafood species and their habitats.”

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The 5 biggest threats to West Africa’s oceans – and what to do about them

Plastic bottles and other waste are some of the contaminants destroying the oceans. Issouf Sanogo/AFP via Getty Images

The natural resources that form ocean ecosystems can play a significant role in the socio-economic growth and development of nations.

West Africa has a variety of marine and coastal ecosystems, found within the Atlantic Ocean. This is one of the most diverse and economically important fishing zones in the world and provides an income for many through fishing, shipping, logistics and mining.

But unregulated and unsustainable exploitation has degraded the ecosystems severely. Threats have come from land based sources of pollution, insecurity and piracy, illegal and harmful fishing practices, and climate change.

These multiple stressors have had a negative impact on the ecological integrity and health of West Africa. They are causing an alarming decline in fishery resources, loss of coral reefs and seashells, coastal erosion, ocean acidity and rising sea levels.

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The Mediterranean Sea is so hot, it’s forming carbonate crystals


If you stand on the coast of Israel and gaze out across the Mediterranean Sea, you’ll spy deep-blue, calm waters that have sustained humans for millennia. Beneath the surface, though, something odd is unfolding: A process called stratification is messing with the way the sea processes carbon dioxide.

Think of this part of the Mediterranean as a cake made of liquid, essentially. Fierce sunlight heats the top layer of water that sits on cooler, deeper layers below. Out in the open ocean, where water temperatures are lower, CO2 dissolves in saltwater—which is what allows Earth’s seas to collectively absorb a quarter of the carbon emissions that humans pump into the atmosphere. But as the eastern Mediterranean Sea heats up in the summer, it can no longer absorb that gas and instead starts releasing it.

It’s the same thing that happens in a bottle of soda that is carbonated with carbon dioxide. “You usually keep it cold, so the dissolved gasses will stay dissolved,” says Or Bialik, a geoscientist at the University of Münster in Germany. “If you leave it in your car for a while and try to open it, all the gasses are going to pop out at once, because when it warms, the capacity of the fluid to hold CO2 goes down.” Boomfizz, you’ve got a mess on your hands. 

In the Eastern Mediterranean, this dynamic is rather more consequential for the climate than a sticky car interior, as the sea begins burping up great quantities of CO2 that the water can no longer hold. And Bialik and his colleagues have discovered that these warming, stratifying waters teem with a second carbon problem: The team recently caught aragonite crystals in sediment traps. Aragonite is a form of calcium carbonate, which oceanic creatures like snails use to build their shells. Except in the increasingly hot Eastern Mediterranean, the aragonite is forming abiotically. That’s another sign that the water is getting so warm that it’s releasing its carbon load.

In these hot, shallow, stable waters, the fluid on top doesn’t mix much with the underlying colder layers, in contrast to deeper parts of the ocean, where upwelling brings up cooler H2O. “The conditions are so extreme that we can definitely generate calcium carbonate chemically from these waters, which was kind of a shock for us,” says Bialik, who coauthored a recent paper describing the discovery in the journal Scientific Reports. (He did the research while at the University of Malta and University of Haifa.) “It’s basically like a beaker that sits there for a very long time, and it’s long enough to get these reactions going and start generating these crystals.”

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‘One more thing’ about plastics: they could be acidifying the ocean, study says

A coral reef in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt. Lowered pH obstructs the ability of marine organisms, such as corals, planktons, oysters and urchins, to build skeletons and shells out of calcium carbonate and to generally survive. Image by Renata Romeo / Ocean Image Bank.

The trillions of pieces of plastic currently roving through the global ocean are known to be an assault on life. Turtles get tangled up in discarded plastic fishing nets. Whales open their mouths to eat and unwittingly fill their stomachs with shopping bags. Filter-feeding fish and other organisms gobble up tiny plastic particles, poisoning themselves with the plastic’s toxins and passing that toxicity along to any animal that consumes them.

And now, new research suggests that plastic pollution could be harming the ocean in an additional way: by contributing to its acidification.

Through a series of laboratory experiments, scientists from the Marine Sciences Institute in Barcelona, known as ICM-CSIC by its Spanish acronym, found that when plastic — especially aged, degraded plastic — interacts with sunlight, it releases a cocktail of chemicals, including organic acids, into the ocean. Organic acids are known to lower the pH of seawater, causing it to become more acidic. In addition, the sun’s degradation of plastic can lead to carbon dioxide (CO2) release, which can cause pH to plummet further.

In highly polluted parts of the ocean, such as coastal areas, plastic could contribute to a drop of up to 0.5 pH units, which is “comparable to the pH drop estimated in the worst anthropogenic emissions scenarios for the end of the 21st century,” says Cristina Romera-Castillo, a postdoctoral researcher at ICM-CSIC and lead author of the study documenting the findings.

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PICRC researchers headed to Hawaii for IAEA Ocean Acidification Fellowship

Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) Researcher Ikelau Otto and Research Assistant McQuinnley Mesengei traveled to Hawaii last Friday to begin an ocean acidification fellowship at the University of Hawaii.

The two-and-a-half-month fellowship will provide Otto and Mesengei with the expertise they need to operate a new state-of-the-art ocean acidification (OA) monitoring lab at PICRC.  The OA lab will significantly expand Palau’s capacity to study ocean acidification in our waters.

Dr. Christopher Sabine, a professor at the University of Hawaii and expert on ocean acidification, will lead the fellowship program.

“In Palau, our economy, our food security, and our way of life all depend on the ocean.” said Otto. “Therefore, it’s critical that we understand the threat that ocean acidification poses to the delicate environment we rely so heavily on and what we can do in response.”

Otto and Mesengei were awarded the fellowship as part of a four-year project with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to expand Palau’s capacity to monitor ocean acidification. The project also establishes the new ocean acidification lab at PICRC led by Otto and Mesengei.

“The new lab is providing us with the tools we need to study ocean acidification and now, with the fellowship, Ikelau and I will have the expertise to use it to its full potential.” said Mesengei. “It’s a big step forward for Palau and the whole Micronesian region.”

After returning to Palau, Otto and Mesengei will provide additional trainings to the PICRC’s research team along with support from Stanford Professor Dr. Robert Dunbar, who is helping with the development of PICRC’s OA research program.

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Cuba improves its capacity to study ocean acidification

New equipment for the quantification of total carbon in seawater will reinforce Cuba’s capabilities to study ocean acidification.

The Nuclear Communicators Network (REDNUC) reported that a Total Carbon Analyzer donated by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was installed at the Center for Environmental Studies (CEAC) in the city of Cienfuegos by an expert from the German company Analytik Jena, in keeping with the regional project Capacity Building in Marine and Coastal Environments through Nuclear and Isotope Techniques, which will contribute to the fulfillment of Cuba’s commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

The Cuban Observatory for the Study of Ocean Acidification, attached to the Network for Research on Marine-Coastal Stressors in Latin America and the Caribbean (REMARCO), already has stations in central and western provinces of the country.

REMARCO relies on the integration of scientists and communicators from 18 countries to achieve the transfer of scientific research results, taking into account managers and communities affected by chemical pollution, microplastics, harmful algal blooms, ocean acidification and eutrophication.

Analytik Jena is a leading supplier of high-quality analytical measurement technology, instruments and products in the field of biotechnology and molecular diagnostics, as well as automation and liquid handling technologies.

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More or less: have the oceans become 30% more acidic? (audio)

Although the climate-changing effects of Carbon Dioxide emissions are well known, they are changing our oceans too, making them more acidic. But how much?

Tim Harford explores the statistical quirks of ocean acidification, from pH to the mysteries of logarithmic scales. With Dr Helen Findlay from the Plymouth Marine Laboratory in the UK.

Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Nathan Gower Programme Coordinator: Brenda Brown Sound Engineer: Rod Farquhar

Underwater perspective of a wave breaking. Credit: Joel Sharpe/Getty images
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Salish Sea providing a ‘window’ into the future of ocean acidification (text & video)

WDFW is currently studying whether crabs could be impacted by ocean acidification, a process some scientists say Puget Sound is particularly susceptible to.

WASHINGTON — The waters of Puget Sound form the backbone of many businesses across the Pacific Northwest. They’re also central to the identity of many coastal towns in western Washington. 

The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) says it is the most valuable type of fishing in the state. WDFW is currently studying whether crabs could be impacted by ocean acidification, a process some scientists say Puget Sound is particularly susceptible to.

Aaron Dufault, a Puget Sound shellfish manager with WDFW, works with teams in the department to ensure sustainable management of Dungeness crab.

“We manage these populations using what we call 3S management, which utilizes sex, so we only allow folks to harvest males, we don’t harvest females,” Dufault said. “Then we have size. So, we have a minimum size that we allow folks to target, so we’re protecting juveniles or sub-adults there. But we also have seasons. So we make sure we’re not targeting these, targeting crabs when they’re molting, for example, when they’re vulnerable, to mortality, due to handling and stuff like that.”

They work to understand all of the processes potentially impacting Dungeness crabs, including ocean acidification. So far, based on their monitoring, ocean acidification on its own does not appear to impact adult populations. It does, however, appear to affect juvenile populations.

“Adults don’t seem to be very affected by ocean acidification, they have the ability to regulate their internal fluid, the acid-base regulation is really strong, so adults aren’t typically impacted,” Dufault said. “Juveniles, however, seem to be pretty susceptible to ocean acidification. So this is for juveniles being impacted. It’s not just a common thing to see across crustaceans, but across other taxonomic groups as well.”

Continue reading ‘Salish Sea providing a ‘window’ into the future of ocean acidification (text & video)’

Oregon legislature makes big investment in ocean science

The nearly $1 million that Oregon legislators approved so ocean researchers can help Oregon better understand and monitor ocean changes is starting to make its way to researchers.

Last year, the Oregon Legislature passed House Bill 3114, which allocated the funds to the Oregon Ocean Science Trust to address ocean acidification and hypoxia and the risks these issues pose to the state’s economy and ecosystems. Now, through competitive grants, these funds are being distributed to marine researchers.

Laura Anderson, chair of the Oregon Ocean Science Trust, said her entity is thankful to Oregon lawmakers for realizing the value of investing in increasing ocean knowledge.

“Coastal economies and Oregon fisheries are directly dependent on healthy marine ecosystems,” Anderson said. “And helping policy makers proactively manage ocean resources is ultimately a benefit for all Oregonians.”

The funds address priority actions in Oregon’s Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia Plan and support OAH monitoring in Oregon’s coastal waters and in Yaquina Bay.

The Oregon Coordinating Council on Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia, created via passage of Oregon Senate Bill 1039 in 2017, provides recommendations and guidance to the state on how to respond to acidification and hypoxia issues.

Oregon was one of the first places in the world to observe the direct impact of ocean acidification when its oyster hatchery production collapsed in 2007. Acidification continues to be a challenge in oyster aquaculture productivity and has prompted some producers to move operations elsewhere.

The situation was caused by carbon dioxide from the atmosphere entering the ocean and reacting chemically with water. The sea became acidified, and hypoxia occurred. Hypoxia, low or depleted oxygen in ocean water, is exacerbated by acidification.

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$50M gift aims to improve Hawaiʻi’s ocean health

Seven-Year Commitment Funds University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa SOEST Ocean Conservation Research

Today, the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) announced a seven-year $50 million commitment from Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, which will support  various research groups within Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB). HIMB will leverage this gift to make meaningful progress in restoring Hawaiʻi’s ocean health. 

This gift will fund research and programs that document changing ocean conditions, explore solutions to support healthier ocean ecosystems, enhance coastal resilience from storms and sea-level rise, and tackle challenges to marine organisms ranging from the tiniest corals to the largest predators.

University of Hawai‘i (UH) President David Lassner said, “This transformative gift will enable our world-class experts to accelerate conservation research for the benefit of Hawaiʻi and the world.” Lassner continued, “The ocean ecosystems that evolved over eons now face unprecedented threats from our growing human population and our behaviors. It is critical that we learn from previous generations who carefully balanced resource use and conservation. The clock is ticking, and we must fast-track not only our understanding of marine ecosystems and the impacts of climate change, but the actions we must take to reverse the devastation underway. There is no place on Earth better than Hawai‘i to do this work, and no institution better able than UH.  We could not be more grateful for the investment of Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg in a better future for all of us and our planet.” 

Hawai‘i is home to a rich diversity of marine life, including many threatened and endangered species. The accelerated pace of climate change and ocean acidification has altered environmental conditions faster than expected. Many species have difficulty adapting to the rapid changes taking place in the oceans and scientists see growing impacts to marine ecosystems. 

The gift funds research on the impact of climate change on Hawaiian coastal waters, including areas of particular concern or natural refuges from ocean acidification effects. It will also support  research  on methods for more accurate forecasting of future ocean conditions, as well as efforts to study marine organisms like coral reefs, sharks, and other species.    

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2050 neutrality is a false prophet, there’s a time bomb waiting for us in the oceans

I felt a lot of sympathy this week seeing younger generations, led by Greta Thunberg, who decried what they saw as a gross display of elitist posturing and grandstanding by global leaders ostensibly attempting to ‘solve’ the climate crisis at COP26.

I was there earlier this week, rubbing shoulders with the world’s elite as they fail to develop a meaningful way forward to protect future generations, but I have a different bone of contention that no one, not even the climate activists, seem to see.

Carbon neutrality by 2050 is a false prophet. Our climate activists are right to focus on CO2, but they need to look both ways, see both sides of the carbon equation – what goes in, isn’t being taken out.

Instead of just looking up at our warming atmosphere, we should be looking down into our acidifying oceans.

The dominant narrative has been of the dangers of a warming planet. These dangers are real, and we must reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.

But this is not our most pressing problem. To explain why, I must introduce you to a number you will unfortunately be hearing a lot in the coming years: pH 7.95.

Ocean Acidification
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COP26: top marine biologist warns of catastrophic consequences of ignoring ocean acidification

One of the world’s top marine biologists, Howard Dryden, Chief Scientific Officer at the Global Ocean Exploratory Survey (GOES) Team, has warned the UN Climate Change Conference that we have just ten years to take action to prevent ocean acidification rising to catastrophic level by 2045.

Without major changes, global oceans are set to pass a pH of 7.95 within the next 25 years, setting off an irreversible chain reaction leading to the break of the shells of phytoplankton. These organisms are the true lungs of the planet, absorbing more CO2 than all the world’s forests combined. If they die, climate change will be put into hyperdrive and could very possibly see the collapse of the ocean’s food chain.

“If we don’t fix the problem of ocean acidification in the next decade, we’re screwed. Even if we are carbon neutral by 2030, we will still hit levels of acidification higher than pH 7.95, which will kill over half of all life in the ocean. While the attention on carbon zero is well intentioned, it is a misguided focus of efforts when we face a further more pressing danger right on the horizon.” said Dryden.

The GOES Team have been invited to COP26 to help educate attendees on why the focus on achieving net zero carbon emissions is misplaced. They will then set sail around the world in their carbon neutral sailboat to meet with senior government ministers, scientists and global leaders hoping to build a collective plan of action to stop ocean acidification.

They will visit hotspots where ocean acidification has flared already up, utilising their newly built system for ocean acidification sampling. They have assembled an armada of over 100 boats, captained by citizen scientists committed to sounding the alarm on pH 7.95. 

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Autonomous glider withstands two hurricanes while transmitting continuous ocean data (text & video)

A Texas A&M Liquid Robotics WaveGlider is collecting and transmitting water quality data from above the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary in the Gulf of Mexico.

video still of a group of students in hard hats on a boat preparing to launch a yellow glider into the water
The Texas A&M Liquid Robotics WaveGlider SV3 was deployed Aug. 13, 2021. Courtesy of Steve DiMarco

Today, 100 miles off the coast of Texas, a 10-foot-long yellow autonomous glider is riding waves as it patrols the perimeter above the NOAA Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.

It is collecting water quality data related to ocean acidification, which is essential to monitoring the long-term survival of the sanctuary’s unique coral reef ecosystem, and transmitting it to a research team that includes Texas A&M University System scientists.

The Texas A&M Liquid Robotics WaveGlider SV3’s 90-day deployment — the first of its kind in the U.S. — is part of a multi-institutional collaborative project funded by NOAA’s Oceanic and Atmospheric Research Office Ocean Acidification Program (OAP). Project partners include the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, Texas A&M University’s Geochemical and Environmental Research Group (GERG), the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System (GCOOS), Liquid Robotics, and the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.

But the WaveGlider’s mission has been bumpier than expected. It has survived two named hurricanes — Ida and Nicholas — since Texas A&M GERG scientists deployed it Aug. 13 into the Gulf of Mexico.

“Our lab has been working with the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary since 2013 collecting seawater carbonate data,” Hu said. “But sample collections have been mostly on a seasonal basis and rely on the sanctuary’s research vessel, the R/V Manta. The WaveGlider offers an excellent opportunity for us to continuously monitor this area for an extended period of time with unprecedented temporal resolution. We can’t wait to see what the on-board sensors will reveal for the entire deployment.”

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